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Harper hits 39th homer, Strasburg dominates against Phillies

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Harper hits 39th homer, Strasburg dominates against Phillies

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: It won't come as much consolation near the end of a disappointing season, but there are still nights when you can appreciate just how special Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper can be. This was one of those nights, and it deserves to be appreciated.

The Nationals' two No. 1 draft picks were on full display during this 4-0 victory at Citizens Bank Park, each dominating the Phillies in his own way, turning what would otherwise have been a dreary September ballgame into something more than that.

Strasburg mowed down the Philadelphia lineup with ease. He allowed only one hit during his eight innings (Cody Asche's sharp single through the right side of the infield in the fifth). He walked only one batter (Freddy Galvis in the first). He struck out 14, matching the career-high he set in his major-league debut five years ago.

Harper, meanwhile, provided the Nationals' entire offensive output of the night. He homered twice and drove in another run with a third-inning single to center, maintaining his late-season surge and giving Strasburg some cushion with which to work.

It probably won't make a difference in the outcome of the season, but that shouldn't minimize what those two young stars did on this night.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: So much for Harper's late-summer power outage. Whatever concern there was about that has completely vanished over the last couple of weeks. With his first-inning blast to center field tonight, and then a 2-run shot to left in the eighth, Harper now has hit eight homers in his last 11 games. That gives him 39 on the season, which trails only Alfonso Soriano (46) for the Nationals single-season record. Harper's season, of course, has been about so much more than home runs, and all of that was on display in this game. His RBI single in the third provided a key run. And his walk in the sixth raised his on-base percentage to .467. His OPS is now up to 1.134. If he can maintain that through the season's final two weeks, it'll be MLB's highest mark since Barry Bonds (1.422) in 2004.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: It felt like Strasburg had been building up to a night like this. He had been on a roll over the last couple of months, and his 13-strikeout performance against the Mets last week was a taste of things to come. Strasburg put it all together this time, with his 1-hit, 1-walk, 14-strikeout performance, as impressive an outing as he has authored since his ballyhooed MLB debut five years ago. Strasburg induced 30 swings and misses, which according to ESPN trails only Clayton Kershaw and Johan Santana over the last decade. Over his last 10 starts, Strasburg is now 6-2 with a 2.07 ERA, 79 strikeouts and nine walks.

KEY STAT: With 112 walks, Harper is now only four shy of Adam Dunn's club record, set in 2009.

UP NEXT: The series wraps up at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday when Gio Gonzalez (10-7, 3.88) takes the mound against left-hander Adam Morgan (5-6, 4.60). No word yet if Foggy Bottom will be catching for the Phillies.

MORE NATIONALS: Ramos proud of new mark for games caught

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Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

Its 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

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm