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Blowout win carries Nats into September

Blowout win carries Nats into September

Chants of "Let's go Gio!" as the ninth inning began. A Gatorade shower and shaving cream pie to the face that came moments later. Thumping music in the clubhouse after another lopsided victory. And then applause from those remaining players watching the Braves blow a ninth-inning lead to the Phillies.

These are the sights and sounds of a pennant race, and Washington is smack-dab in the middle of one right now.

A 10-0 whitewashing of the Cardinals Friday night gave the Nationals as many wins as they posted in all of 2011 -- one shy of the club record -- with 31 games still to play. Atlanta's meltdown shortly after extended Washington's lead to 6 12 games and lowered the magic number for the NL East title to 25.

"We have a long ways to go, and we haven't done anything yet," Ryan Zimmerman cautioned. "But what we have done is give this city a baseball team to cheer for, and they've wanted that for a long time."

Zimmerman and others have insisted for five months it was too early to focus on the standings, too early to consider themselves in a pennant race. Hate to break it to you, Ryan, but September has arrived and your team is humming along, playing as well as anyone in the majors.

Sure, there was that minor bump in the road earlier in the week, that five-game losing streak that left many around town wondering whether it was time to panic. Then Davey Johnson closed the clubhouse door in Miami before Wednesday's game, rallied the troops with an upbeat, positive speech and all they've done since is terrorize whatever poor opponent had the misfortune of sitting in the other dugout.

In three games since that meeting, the Nationals have outscored the Marlins and Cardinals 24-5 and put to rest any doubts that may have been creeping up during the losing streak.

"That's what a great manager does," Gio Gonzalez said. "A great manager sees a little glitch in the system, he fixes it up and gets us back going. That little speech he had for us was one of a kind."

Perhaps nobody took the message more to heart than Gonzalez, who suffered one of the losses during that streak but returned Friday night with perhaps his most dominant performance of the season. Scattering four singles, a double and two walks, the left-hander notched the first shutout of his big-league career, finishing this one off on his 119th pitch of the evening.

And he did it with one notable distraction in his field of vision: His mother.

Yes, seated right behind the plate was Yoly Gonzalez, cheering on her son throughout his milestone performance and yelling at St. Louis' batters and Washington's fielders alike.

"I was like: 'Oh god, somebody's got to keep her quiet over there,'" Gio Gonzalez said.

In the end, Yoli joined the rest of the 29,499 in attendance in chanting "Let's go Gio!" during the top of the ninth, then rejoicing as he got Shane Robinson to loft a fly ball to center field for the final out.

Standing on the mound, Gonzalez heard it all.

"Man, it was just one of those things were you can't explain it," he said. "It felt like it was a boost of energy, kind of like having a Red Bull right there in the ninth."

Not that the Nationals needed much of a boost the way they stormed out of the gates and took out Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright in staggering fashion. The former 20-game winner faced only 20 batters over 2 23 innings. Twelve of them safely reached base.

Everyone in the Nationals' lineup other than Michael Morse both recorded a hit and scored a run.

"We're having good at-bats, and everybody's hitting in good situations and everybody's coming up clutch," said rookie Bryce Harper, who had a pair of singles and drove in two runs. "When one guy hits, everybody hits. That's the biggest thing. Everybody's going up there with confidence."

Not a bad mindset to have as the calendar shifts to September and D.C. experiences the final month of its first pennant race in three generations.

Even if a few players are still trying not to get caught up in the hysteria.

"There's a long way to go," Zimmerman said yet again. There'll be a long way to go until there's not any way to go. That's the way we're looking at it. We're not taking anything for granted. We're not satisfied with what we've done. We've put ourselves in a good position, and I think if we can take anything out of what we've done, that's all we can take."

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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