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Bullpen cracks in Nats' walk-off loss to Orioles

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Bullpen cracks in Nats' walk-off loss to Orioles

Holding a one-run lead on Baltimore in the eighth inning on Friday night, the ideal situation for Matt Williams' bullpen was presented. Casey Janssen came out to set up a save opportunity for Drew Storen with the Nats holding a 39-2 record this season when leading after seven innings. The Orioles, on the other hand, were an ugly 0-36 when leading after seven.

Advantage Washington, right?

But this is baseball and, naturally, nothing went as planned. Janssen allowed a softly-hit single to leadoff against a pinch-hitting Chris Parmelee. He then got Adam Jones out on a hard liner to third base.

Though Janssen wasn't in serious trouble, Williams called on lefty Matt Thornton to face Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. Wieters stepped to the plate 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Thornton in his career. So, of course, he doubled to right-center field to tie the game at 2-2.

Wieters was aggressive and hit the first pitch from Thornton, something the Nats' veteran did not foresee.

"[Jose Lobaton] asked me on the mound what I wanted to do there. I said 'let's start him down and away and then we'll go from there, go back in.' He jumped the first pitch and that was it. I didn't expect him to do that," Thornton explained.

Thornton got out of the inning quickly thereafter, but the Nats were no match for All-Star reliever Zach Britton in the top of the ninth. That set up a walk-off opportunity for the Orioles against right-hander Tanner Roark, and they made it count.

Roark came out firing mid-90s fastballs and struck out the first two batters he faced. He was nothing short of dominant and even got the final batter, Jonathan Schoop, to two strikes.

But then Roark left a slider just a little too high in the zone and Schoop sent it over the fence in left field. He reached and barely got a bat on it, but it was just enough on a hot summer night in a small stadium.

"The pitch that went out of the ballpark was not a bad pitch," Williams said. "He just got out and hooked it. It's a small ballpark and he just got it over. That's the way this park plays sometimes."

"He was doing great. I even think the pitch that he hit out was a good pitch, a good located pitch," Tyler Moore said. "He just one-handed it. In this stadium the ball travels pretty good. It's unfortunate."

Roark also felt the slider was a well-executed pitch, but he wouldn't point to the conditions or the dimensions at Camden Yards as an excuse.

"It is what it is," he said. "There's a lot of parks where the ball flies. You still gotta pitch the same and be confident in yourself."

The Nats' bullpen did produce one big positive in Aaron Barrett's successful return from a right bicep strain. Barrett replaced starter Gio Gonzalez in the seventh inning, allowed no runs and struck out two. It was his first appearance since June 11 and he came away encouraged.

"I'm glad skip had the confidence to put me in that situation, to get back to help the team out in whatever role is available. I felt good coming back," he said. "I haven't felt any of the pain or the soreness that I was getting or that I was feeling in the past. It is just about continuing to build the arm strength and continuing to keep working."

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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