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Behind Harper power surge, Nats outlast Marlins

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Behind Harper power surge, Nats outlast Marlins

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: No matter how much the game has changed over the decades, through deadball eras and steroid eras, there's always been something special about the 3-homer game. It's a single-game feat accomplished by some of baseball's greatest, but not all. And on this warm Wednesday afternoon on South Capitol Street, Bryce Harper added his name to the list with the best power display of his young career.

Harper homered in each of his first three at-bats, all off Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler, to stake the Nationals to a 5-2 lead and elicit a curtain call from the crowd of 31,417. He came up to bat again in the bottom of the seventh with a chance to really make history, settling instead for a mere RBI groundout that extended the Nats' lead to 7-2.

MORE NATS: HARPER BLASTS 3 HRs

That lead wasn't as safe as Matt Williams would have hoped, though. Max Scherzer, after dominating most of the afternoon, faded in the top of the eighth and served up a towering, 3-run homer to Giancarlo Stanton that trimmed the lead to 7-5. Tanner Roark had to pitch out of a jam to finish the eighth, then Drew Storen needed to strike out Stanton and Marcell Ozuna with the tying runner on base to record the save.
With that victory, the Nationals took this series from their division rivals. They've now won 7-of-9 overall and moved back within 1 game of the .500 mark.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Hmm, nothing really stands out here as a highlight. ... Wilson Ramos did double in the second inning to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Other than that ... oh yeah, that Harper kid. What can be said other than he was phenomenal. His first homer was an opposite-field shot that landed in the visitors' bullpen. His next two were absolute bombs, each landing in the second deck high above the wall in right-center. Giancarlo Stanton didn't even bother moving on the last one; he knew where it was going. A 3-homer game is remarkable in and of itself, but Harper is in some really exclusive company with this one. He's the youngest to hit three homers and drive in five runs in a game since Al Kaline on April 17, 1955.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: The final line (7 IP, 10 H, 5 ER) doesn't look great, but Scherzer was great on this day, done in by a flurry of hits in the second and then Stanton's towering homer in the eighth. In between, the right-hander struck out 10, didn't walk a batter and completely overwhelmed the Marlins lineup. Should he have been allowed to retake the mound for the eighth? That's debatable. He was sitting at 101 pitches but had retired 17 of the last 19 batters he faced. He then gave up back-to-back singles to Dee Gordon and Martin Prado, getting a mound visit from Steve McCatty. Scherzer stayed in to face Stanton, who worked the count to 3-2 and then launched a ball over the left-field wall to make this game interesting again.

KEY STAT: The only other Nationals to hit three homers in a game are Alfonso Soriano (2006), Adam Dunn (2010) and Ryan Zimmerman (2013).

UP NEXT: After 16 straight games in four cities, the Nationals get a much-deserved day off Thursday. They'll open a weekend series against the Braves on Friday, with lefties Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 3.86) and Eric Stults (1-2, 4.91) squaring off.

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE