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Heisey's walkoff homer in 16th gives Nats sweep of Twins

Heisey's walkoff homer in 16th gives Nats sweep of Twins

Postgame analysis of the Nationals' 6-5 walkoff win over the Minnesota Twins in 16 innings on Sunday afternoon at Nats Park: 

How it happened: Even when Bryce Harper is supposed to have the day off, he can still find a way to help his team win a game. On Sunday, the reigning MVP waited patiently all afternoon before his named was called to pinch-hit for Michael Taylor in the bottom of the ninth. The Nats slugger emerging from the dugout with his bat and helmet to a roaring applause from the 35,397 in attendance at Nationals Park. He then came through with a monster shot homer to center field against Twins reliever Kevin Jepsen. It was a solo bomb and it tied the game at 4-4. The big swing forced extra innings and set up the decisive blow, a walkoff homer by Chris Heisey off Michael Tonkin in the 16th. That came after the Twins went up a run in the top half of the 15th on a single by Miguel Sano, a run that was only made possible by a crew chief review to keep the inning alive. And it came after Danny Espinosa tied the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the 15th by scoring from second on a throwing error to first by Twins catcher John Ryan Murphy. At 5 hours and 58 minutes, it was the longest regular season game in Nationals history.

What it means: With the win the Nationals are now 14-4, which ties their 2012 start through 18 games. It also matches the best start for a D.C. baseball team since the Washington Senators began the 1932 season at 14-4. The Nationals have benefitted from an easy schedule so far, but they have had no trouble at all with the teams they have played. Up next is the Philadelphia Phillies, who come to town as one of baseball's early season pleasant surprises. The Nats, though, did take two of three against them just a week ago.

Replay burns the Nats: Sano's RBI single drove home Eduardo Nunez after the 15th inning at one point appeared over. Nunez singled to right field with two outs and then was initially called out on a steal attempt of second base. But a crew chief review overturned that call and award him second. Dozier then walked to bring Sano to the plate.

Strasburg cracks late: For most of the afternoon it looked like another dominant outing for a Nats pitcher against a beleaguered Twins lineup, but Strasburg couldn't finish the job in the Nats' win. Strasburg was cruising before the eighth on a day he struck out 10 batters and walked none. The Twins, though, were able to start a rally with Joe Mauer notching a pinch-hit single. Nunez then reached on an infield grounder - his third hit of the day - and Dozier cleaned it all up with his third homer of the season. Strasburg ended up charged with four earned runs which is the most he's surrendered since Aug. 30 of 2015. Strasburg, in fact, had allowed just four earned runs total in his previous five outings entering Sunday, in a stretch of 35 2/3 innings dating back to last year. Strasburg's 10 strikeouts, though, did give him his 23rd career start with double digit strikeouts.

Harper's 9th homer a big one: Harper had quite the battle with Jepsen, who threw him only fastballs in a seven-pitch at-bat. Harper fouled off three pitches before sending one out of the field of play. Harper now has a game-tying or go-ahead home run in the ninth inning in each of the last five seasons. No other player can claim that.

Another first inning run: The Nationals continued their early season trend of getting off to good starts. den Dekker's homer off Twins starter Tyler Duffey put the Nats up 1-0 in the first and gave them 25 runs in the first inning this season, more runs than any MLB team has scored in any inning. They still, however, have not scored in the second inning, which is a strange stat when juxtaposed with their first inning domination.

Wilson gets a walk: Wilson Ramos has been off to a very good start this season, as he entered Sunday's game batting .315 with two home runs. But, prior to this game, he had yet to draw a single walk. He was, in fact, the only qualified hitter without a true walk. Gerardo Parra had no walks, but did have an intentional walk entering Sunday. Ramos finally got his first walk, though, off Duffey in the fourth inning. Ramos also had a two-RBI double in the eighth inning to cut the Twins lead to 4-3, which allowed Harper to tie it with his homer.

Up next: The Nats have Monday off before they continue their homestand against the Philadelphia Phillies. Joe Ross was supposed to start the opener, but will now have his turn skipped due to the blister on his right hand. Max Scherzer (2-1, 4.32) will instead start opposite 23-year-old starter Vincent Velasquez (2-1, 0.93). Velasquez struck out 16 batters in a complete game shutout two starts ago.

[RELATED: Baker has unique thoughts on HBPs: 'That's what you call a fool']

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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?


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.


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


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.


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.