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Harper homers, but Scherzer's off day highlights Nats loss to Marlins

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Harper homers, but Scherzer's off day highlights Nats loss to Marlins

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 5-1 loss to the Miami Marlins on Thursday afternoon at Marlins Park:

How it happened: Some days even the best pitchers just don't have it and that was certainly the case for Nationals ace Max Scherzer on Thursday. The right-hander was damaged early by the Marlins and found the strike zone elusive through five innings, as the Nats fell 5-1 to the Marlins to split their four-game series in Miami. Bryce Harper launched his eighth homer of the season in the first inning, but that was it for the Nationals' offense against Miami starter Tom Koehler and the bullpen behind him. The Marlins were much more fortunate against Scherzer, even without Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon in their starting lineup.

What it means: The Nationals got a series split with the Marlins, which is a decent outcome for a road tilt against a talented Marlins team. Now they turn their attention to the Twins for a three-game interleague series, a team they saw twice earlier this month in exhibition matchups. After the Twins are the Phillies for three games, and one could argue this is an important homestand, regardless of the opponents. That is if you consider what follows on the Nats' schedule. They go at St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago (Cubs) before returning home to face the Tigers. After the Tigers it's the Marlins, Mets, Marlins, Mets and then the Cardinals again. That's a brutal stretch and one that may tell us a lot about these new-look Nats.

Scherzer a little off: Scherzer found trouble early on Thursday with three runs in the first inning and a few adventures in his aim for the strike zone later on. Of the 54 pitches he threw in his first two frames, 25 of them were balls. One of those was a wild pitch in the second inning that missed the strike zone by about two feet. That runner, Jeff Mathis, would later score on a single by Martin Prado. The three runs in the first inning all came on a homer by Marcell Ozuna, who was filling in as the cleanup hitter for Stanton. Scherzer ended up making it five innings with eight hits, two walks, a wild pitch and one hit batter on 99 total pitches (64 strikes). He left the mound with a 4.32 ERA and has now allowed five homers in four starts.

Harper does it again off Koehler: Harper clubbed his sixth career homer off Koehler on the first inning on Thursday, the most he's ever hit against one opposing pitcher. This one came on the first pitch he saw from Koehler and it landed in a garden in center field. It was Harper's eighth homer of the season in 14 games. He now has an RBI in eight straight outings, which is the second-longest streak in Nats history to Ryan Zimmerman, who did it in nine consecutive games in 2012. Harper's big swing also gave the Nats six homers at Marlins Park in a span of 13 innings dating back to Tuesday's game when they clubbed four in the top of the seventh alone. Those six homers matched the Nats' total for all of 2016 at Marlins Park (9 games). Sure, the Marlins brought in the fences and lowered them a bit, but that's just ridiculous.

Murphy's hitting streak ends: Daniel Murphy did something extremely rare these days: he didn't get a hit. That snapped a 12-game hitting streak for the Nats second baseman and marked just the second time in 15 appearances with Washington that he's gone hitless. Murphy did reach base on a hit-by-pitch in the fourth inning. And even after going 0-for-3 on Thursday, Murphy's batting .404.

Some are still struggling: It was a tough day for the Nats' lineup overall, as they mustered just two hits (one an infield single) and one walk against the Marlins. Matt den Dekker went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts batting leadoff. Clint Robinson went 0-for-3 filling in for Zimmerman. Michael Taylor went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Danny Espinosa went 0-for-2 with a HBP. den Dekker is now hitless in 13 at-bats since his go-ahead RBI in Atlanta on April 6. Robinson has just one hit in 16 at-bats (.063 BA) this season. Taylor is hitting just .175 with 22 strikeouts in 14 games. And Espinosa is batting .163 with four hits in his last 13 games.

Up next: The Nats return to Washington for a six-game homestand beginning with the Minnesota Twins on Friday night. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. with Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 0.69) and right-hander Kyle Gibson (0-2, 3.57) set to start. 

[RELATED: Ex-Nats in new places: Zimmermann thriving, Desmond not so much]

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

RELATED: 2018 SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.

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He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

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