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Harper hits No. 14 as Nationals homer past Padres in road trip opener

Harper hits No. 14 as Nationals homer past Padres in road trip opener

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 8-5 win over the San Diego Padres on Thursday night at Petco Park.

How it happened: Despite their last-place record, the Padres presented no easy match for the Nationals on Thursday night in their series opener in San Diego.

For one, they were at home. And secondly, they were hosting a Nats team that flew six hours across the country the night before after an emotionally draining series against the Cubs that needed 12 innings for its finale on Wednesday night.

None of that fazed the Nationals, however, as they kept rolling in an 8-5 victory, their ninth in their last 11 games. Bryce Harper clubbed his 14th homer of the season, Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos added solo shots. All three bombs came off Padres starter Erik Johnson, who gave up five earned runs in six innings of work. The Nats again lead the NL with 91 homers on the season.

Nats starter Tanner Roark allowed four earned and one homer himself, but earned his sixth win. The other Padres' run was charged to Felipe Rivero, who allowed two baserunners in the ninth before Shawn Kelley gave up a sacrifice fly to Matt Kemp.

What it means: The Nationals moved to 42-25 on the year and a season-high 17 games over .500. They remain five games ahead of the Mets in the NL East, as New York beat the Pirates at home. 

Harper hits first homer in a while: Harper's two-run shot gave the Nationals their first lead of the game in the third inning, but it just barely cleared the fence in left field. Harper got under an Erik Johnson fastball and slowly stepped out of the box as he watched it hook high and over the wall. He didn't initially know it was gone, but he'll take it. It was Harper's first home run since May 28 and his 14th of the season.

Harper also drove in an insurance run in the ninth inning on a bloop single to center field off former teammate Matt Thornton. That gave him 41 RBI for the season, which ranks just behind Daniel Murphy's 42 on the Nationals.

Drew pitches in again: Stephen Drew got the Nats on the board with a sac fly in the top of the second, a flyball to center field that got Ramos in from third. That gave Drew his ninth RBI in a span of 14 at-bats dating back to May 31. He also added a double and is now 9-for-17 (.529) with four homers, nine RBI, two doubles and two walks in his last eight games. Despite limited opportunities, Drew continues to produce at a high level. 

Roark stumbles early: Roark was good enough to win on this night with some help from his offense, but overall it was a so-so outing for the right-hander against one of baseball's least productive lineups. Roark allowed four earned runs on seven hits and two walks in six innings of work. He needed 104 pitches to get through six.

Roark's biggest problems were in the first inning. He gave up RBI singles to Kemp and Melvin Upton, Jr., plus another single and a walk in the frame. Roark's ERA in the first two innings this season is now 5.46. He has a 2.02 ERA from the third inning and beyond. The latter includes the runs he gave up in the fifth and sixth on Thursday night. The fifth inning score came on a Wil Myers solo homer. Roark now has a 5.06 ERA through three starts in June after starting the month with a 2.70 mark.

Ramos, Rendon homer: Ramos and Rendon's homers were both solo shots. For Ramos, it was his 11th homer this season, his fifth homer already this month and his seventh in his last 21 games. The catcher also singled to lead off the second inning and later scored on Drew's sacrifice fly. Ramos has three multi-hit games in his last four outings and at least one RBI in eight of his last 10 appearances.

Rendon's homer was his seventh of the season and his third of June. After hitting just one homer in his first 28 games this season and just two in his first 45, he's got five in his last 20 outings. The homer was Rendon's only hit on Thursday, but he did add a walk. This followed two hitless games and a stretch of only four hits in his previous seven outings (27 AB, .148 BA).

Up next: And you thought this one was on late. Friday night the Nats and Padres will play at 10:40 p.m. in the second of this four-game series. On the mound for the Nationals will be Joe Ross (5-4, 3.01) facing the team that traded him to Washington back in December of 2014. Lefty Christian Friedrich (3-1, 2.12) will start for the Padres.

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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