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Bryce Harper makes history without one swing

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Bryce Harper makes history without one swing

There is perhaps no player in baseball who can wow a stadium full of fans, teammates, opponents and others just by swinging his bat more than Bryce Harper. But what the Nationals’ 22-year-old slugger did Thursday night by never taking that bat off his shoulder actually produced a more awe-inspiring reaction.

The Nationals shellacked the Braves, 15-1, pounding out 18 hits in the most-lopsided victory in club history. Yet Harper contributed none of those hits. Instead, he drew four walks in four plate appearances, scoring four runs. Which proved to be one of the strangest, yet greatest, offensive performances in baseball history.

Only three other players in the last century have ever scored four runs without recording an official at-bat in a game: Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan and Larry Doby. Harper now joins that group of Hall of Famers.

MORE NATS: NATS KNOCK BRAVES OUT OF THE PARK IN 15-1 PUMMELLING 

He also didn’t swing at a single one of the 20 pitches the Braves threw him during the game.

“I’ve done it before,” Harper said. “I’ve done it in high school. I’ve done it in college. I did it when I was like 10 years old. It’s part of the game. Like I’ve said numerous times, I’ve got the confidence of everybody on the team to get the job done behind me. And you saw that tonight. That was good.”

Indeed, the reason Harper’s nothing-but-walks outcome was so effective was the fact the three guys hitting behind him in the lineup — Ryan Zimmerman, Clint Robinson, Yunel Escobar — collectively reached base 10 times themselves, with eight hits and 10 total RBI.

And nobody is producing more in Harper’s wake right now than Zimmerman. The veteran slugger followed up Harper’s walks on Thursday with two doubles, a 2-run single and a sacrifice line drive to center.

“That’s why Bryce didn’t swing at a pitch and scored four runs,” manager Matt Williams said. “There’s your proof in the pudding right there.”

And this wasn’t a one-time occurrence. Over his last 11 games, Zimmerman is hitting .405 with seven homers, 23 RBI and a 1.428 OPS, taking full advantage of all those opportunities to hit with Harper on base.

“Usually every team picks one person that they’re not going to let beat them, and obviously Harp is the choice more times than not,” the first baseman said. “I’m proud of him for being patient. That really shows the maturity that he’s come around this year. It’s hard to take those pitches, because everyone wants to get hits and everyone wants to drive in runs. Walks are good, but obviously it takes a lot of patience and discipline to do what he’s doing. I’m proud of him for that.”

Harper still is maintaining a league-best .331 batting average, though he’s been stuck on 31 homers for awhile while sporting a modest RBI total of 79. No matter, though, because his 104 walks (combined with his hits) leave him with a staggering .460 on-base percentage.

Opposing pitchers simply aren’t giving in. Only 38.3 percent of all pitches Harper has seen this season have been in the strike zone, according to Baseball Info Solutions, the lowest rate among all qualifying major-league batters.

How much respect are those pitchers giving Harper? Well, when Barry Bonds drew a record 234 walks in 2004, he still saw 44.4 percent of all pitches thrown to him in the strike zone.

“He’s talked about it a lot, saying: ‘I’m not going to get away from my approach. I’m going to take what they give me,'” Robinson said of Harper. “And that’s what a good hitter does. The good thing about Bryce is, he’s patient. But when they do come in the zone, he does damage on it. He’s got confidence in the rest of our lineup that when he gets on base, we’re going to drive him in. So kudos to him. It’s pretty impressive to see the patience and not getting out of his approach.”

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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