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Home run parade includes Harper's 40th, Nationals win

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Home run parade includes Harper's 40th, Nationals win

FINAL: Nationals 12, Phillies 2

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals arrived in Philadelphia at the start of the week, understanding they were now playing out the string in every sense other than the mathematical sense, their deficit in the NL East too great to overcome with so little time left on the calendar. Maybe that lack of pressure, though, actually let this team go out and just play baseball for a change, unburdened by the pennant race for the first time all year.

Whatever the reason, the Nats club that showed up here looked everything like a powerhouse, nothing like the disappointing club of the previous 5 1/2 months that is going to come up short in the end. They crushed Phillies pitching, with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper each homering four times in the series. (Harper launched his 40th of the season in this game, becoming only the second player in Nats history to join that club.) They got dominant starting pitching against the Phillies lineup, with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez combining to strike out 26 batters.

And so the Nationals pulled off their first road series sweep of the season, something they did five times last year. Too little, too late? Perhaps. But until they're mathematically eliminated, they'll keep playing these games.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: You think Werth enjoyed his time back in Philly this week? Always a crowd favorite — er, something like that — when he returns to his old stomping grounds, the veteran outfielder saved his best for this series. He homered twice on Monday. Then for good measure, he homered twice tonight. Werth launched a pair of solo shots (one in the fourth, one in the sixth) and further justified Matt Williams' decision to move him to the cleanup spot last week, providing some protection for Harper. It's been a difficult season for Werth, but his production over the last month has erased at least some of the questions about his ability to remain a potent offensive player heading into the final two years of his contract with the Nationals.

MORE NATIONALS: NOT JUST A HITTER

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: You had a sense this would be a good night for Gonzalez when he retired the side in the first inning (striking out a pair) on only 12 pitches. That kind of efficiency is critical (and rare) for the left-hander, so it was a particularly positive omen this time. Sure enough, Gonzalez was in control all night, pounding the strike zone and then putting away the opposition. He wound up striking out 12, matching his career high.

KEY STAT: Harper is only the sixth player to record a 40-homer season before turning 23. Four of the others (Eddie Mathews, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Bench, Mel Ott) are in the Hall of Fame. The fifth (Juan Gonzalez) didn't receive enough votes in his first year on the ballot amid suspicion of PED use.

UP NEXT: The Nationals return to D.C. for the final homestand of the season, beginning with a 4-game set against the Marlins. Tanner Roark (4-5, 4.38) faces Jarred Cosart (1-4, 4.58) in Thursday's 7:05 p.m. opener.

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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