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Disastrous 7th inning dooms Nationals

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Disastrous 7th inning dooms Nationals

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Sigh.

There are ways to lose a game. And then there are ways to really lose a game. And then there's what happened tonight at Nationals Park. It was as painful as any loss this team has ever suffered, ranking alongside postseason heartbreakers, arguably even tougher to stomach than those. At least in those instances, the opponent beat the Nats. This time, the Nats beat themselves. Or, more specifically, their bullpen did.

Only moments after Michael Taylor's bases-loaded, single-plus-three-base-error left the crowd in a frenzy, with the Nationals opening up what appeared to be a commanding 7-1 lead entering the seventh inning, everything collapsed in a manner that defied explanation. Relievers Blake Treinen, Felipe Rivero and Drew Storen combined to give up six runs in the inning, walking six batters along the way, two of them with the bases loaded, letting New York tie the game in stunning fashion.

Then, with no reliable relievers left at his disposal, manager Matt Williams was forced to send Jonathan Papelbon to the mound for the top of the eighth, only to watch as the closer served up the go-ahead homer to Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Everything from that point out felt like a slow funeral procession. The Nationals couldn't rally against Tyler Clippard (returning to pitch in D.C. for the first time since his trade last winter) or Jeurys Familia, and thus were dealt a devastating blow to their already long-shot chances of winning the NL East. They've now lost the first two games of this series, not to mention five in a row to the Mets, who have opened up a 6-game lead in the division with 24 to play.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: For the second straight day, it's a hit in which four Nationals scored. But the two couldn't have happened in much different fashion. Wilson Ramos brought everybody home with a towering grand slam Monday afternoon. Taylor did the same on a sharp base hit up the middle, then getting some major help from Yoenis Cespedes, who came charging for the ball in center field but let it skip right past him and nearly all the way to the wall. Taylor, playing with a banged-up knee, had no choice but to kick it into fifth gear and race 360 feet around the bases as the crowd roared. Who knows what Taylor's knee felt like at the end of that romp, but here's guessing that didn't matter too much to the rookie in that moment. By night's end, it might have been an entirely different feeling.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: In a season full of middle-inning bullpen meltdowns, this somehow eclipsed anything that came before it by miles and miles. Handed a 7-1 lead in the top of the seventh, Treinen, Rivero and Storen simply could not throw the ball over the plate. And it just kept getting more and more painful to watch. Combined, the two relievers issued six walks in the inning, one apiece with the bases loaded. The crowd was in agony throughout, Storen's teammates helpless but to watch as the right-hander threw 17 of his 22 pitches for balls. By the time Matt Grace began warming in the pen, it was too late. Storen did somehow keep the game tied, but where does this outing leave him? And what confidence do the Nationals have in him moving forward?

KEY STAT: After going hitless in three at-bats tonight, Bryce Harper is now 0-for-20 in his career vs. Matt Harvey.

UP NEXT: Wednesday night's series finale features another high-profile pitching matchup. Stephen Strasburg (8-6, 4.35) returns after having his last start skipped due to a stiff neck, set to face Jacob deGrom (12-7, 2.40).

RELATED: Ross moving to bullpen, Roark will start in place

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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