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History repeats itself yet again for Nationals

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History repeats itself yet again for Nationals

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: It couldn't happen again. Could it? Well, yes, it could. And the latest installment of A Nightmare on South Capitol Street wasn't any easier for the Nationals or their fans to watch.

Leading by 2 runs entering the eighth inning behind a dominant performance from Stephen Strasburg (13 strikeouts) and offensive heroics from Bryce Harper (2 homers and a double), Nationals manager Matt Williams turned to his beleaguered bullpen, hoping beyond hope that group could record the five remaining outs necessary to salvage one win in this make-or-break series.

Instead, Drew Storen imploded yet again. Tuesday's meltdown was a slow drip: six walks issued by Storen and his fellow relievers. This one was a swift hammer to the side of the head: a 2-run homer by Yoenis Cespedes that left the crowd of 27,530 in sheer, utter disbelief.

As boos cascaded down on Storen, Williams and others, the Nationals tried in vain to mount a last-ditch rally, unable to pull it off. And so their season has perhaps come down to this defining stat: Their last five losses have all come in games they led entering the sixth inning or later. Had they closed those games out, they would actually lead the NL East right now by 1 game. Instead, they trail by 7.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: It had been a brutal series for Harper, and really a brutal season against the Mets. (He entered this game owning a .214 batting average and only one homer against New York so far in 2015.) But that changed in a hurry when Harper managed to turn on a 97-mph, up-and-in fastball from Jacob deGrom in the bottom of the first, launching his 35th homer of the year. Harper then hammered another 97-mph deGrom fastball in the fourth, sending a leadoff double to the gap in right-center and setting the stage to score the Nationals' second run of the night. And for good measure, he launched a 3-1 pitch from Tyler Clippard down the right-field line for another homer in the eighth. Harper wound up with 10 total bases in the game. Alas, all four of his at-bats came with the bases empty.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: This should have been a night to celebrate Strasburg, who was absolutely brilliant after missing a start with a recurrence of the neck issue that plagued him earlier this season. The right-hander struck out 13 over 7 1/3 innings, coming up one shy of the career mark he set five years ago in his major-league debut. Alas, that was a mere footnote at the end of the night, because of what happened after Strasburg departed (admittedly after he surrendered the game-tying homer to Kelly Johnson and then a sharp single to Curtis Granderson). Williams emerged from the dugout and signaled for Storen, who entered to a chorus of boos. And two pitches later, those boos were full-throated after Storen hung a 1-0 curveball to Cespedes and watched the ball soar into the left-field bullpen.

KEY STAT: Nationals pitchers gave up home runs on only 2.2 percent of all at-bats during the season's first half. They've given up homers on 3.3 percent of at-bats since the All-Star break.

UP NEXT: The Nationals will try to enjoy a day off before opening up a weekend series in Miami. Gio Gonzalez (10-7, 3.96) faces Jarred Cosart (1-4, 5.04) in Friday's 7:10 p.m. EDT game at Marlins Park.

RELATED: Williams addresses criticism from media, fans

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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