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Desmond's sac fly saves the day in Nats win over Braves

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Desmond's sac fly saves the day in Nats win over Braves

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: There was just something about this matchup — Jordan Zimmermann vs. Shelby Miller — that seemed to foretell a compelling pitchers' duel at Nationals Park on Wednesday night. Sure enough, a boisterous crowd of 36,141 was treated to a humdinger of a ballgame, with the two right-handers posting matching zeroes into the seventh ... only to watch as the game was left in the hands of both bullpen in extra innings.

Miller was more dominant than Zimmermann, retiring the first 10 batters he faced and facing the minimum through six innings. But Zimmermann made big pitches when he needed to, stranding runners in scoring position in the second, fourth and sixth innings. Somebody had to break through eventually, and that somebody proved to be the Nationals, who pieced together the night's first run in the bottom of the seventh. With runners on the corners and one out, Bryce Harper took an inside pitch from Miller and got just enough on it to send a soft looper over a diving Jace Peterson in shallow right field.

But Drew Storen couldn't preserve a 1-0 lead in the ninth. He allowed a pair of singles to Nick Markakis and A.J. Pierzysnki, setting the stage for Kelly Johnson's game-tying sacrifice fly, and Storen's first blown save in more than two months.

Never fear, though, because the Nationals put together the necessary rally in the bottom of the 11th to win it. Harper got things started with a 1-out double to right-center. After the Braves intentionally walked Wilson Ramos, Clint Robinson drew a tough conventional walk to load the bases for Ian Desmond. Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez countered with David Aardsma, but Desmond connected with the right-hander's first pitch, sending a fly ball deep enough to left field to bring Harper home with the run that gave the Nationals their fifth straight victory.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: They struggled all night to figure out Miller, but finally in the seventh inning they took care of business. Denard Span got the rally started by drawing a leadoff walk. Anthony Rendon then singled to left, putting the Nats in business. Yunel Escobar nearly hit into his fourth double play in seven at-bats in the series, but by hustling down the line to beat it out, he ensured first base wouldn't be left open, inviting the Braves to intentionally walk Harper. That proved very significant, because Harper was able to muscle Miller's inside pitch over Peterson's head at second base to drive home the night's first run.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: You think these starters feed off each other? It sure looks that way. Zimmermann took the mound Wednesday on the heels of four straight dominant pitching performances, which had produced a total of 26 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings by starting pitchers. And all the right-hander did was keep that streak alive. Zimmermann did put a bunch of men on base (six hits in his first six innings) but he never let the Braves string together anything. He also didn't walk a batter, helping his cause. And he closed out his night in style, retiring the final eight batters he faced to cap off yet another brilliant performance and extend the Nationals starters' streak to 34 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, a new club record.

KEY STAT: The Nationals currently rank seventh in the majors in average attendance at 33,747. The only clubs that rank higher are either from New York or Los Angeles or won the World Series within the last four years.

UP NEXT: The series wraps up with a 4:05 p.m. Thursday matinee. Doug Fister (2-3, 4.80) looks to build off his first start back from the DL, facing Braves rookie right-hander Matt Wisler (1-0, 1.13).

MORE NATIONALS: Williams on Knorr, who should be All-Stars, plus a Zim update

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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.

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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