Nationals

Quick Links

Instant analysis: Braves 11, Nats 10

822413.png

Instant analysis: Braves 11, Nats 10

Game in a nutshell: In the latest installment of "The Biggest Series in Nationals history," the locals got off to a brilliant start they couldn't have scripted any better. Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman launched three-run homers and Steve Lombardozzi added a two-run double that gave the Nats an insurmountable 9-0 lead after five innings, with Stephen Strasburg cruising along on his 24th birthday. Chalk up a huge victory for the Nats ... er, maybe not. Strasburg gave up four runs in the sixth before getting yanked. Drew Storen and Sean Burnett made a mess of the eighth inning, combining to surrender four more runs and give the Braves life. And the Tyler Clippard finished off the meltdown by giving up a two-run triple to Michael Bourn in the top of the ninth that completed the Braves' stunning, 10-run rally. It was the largest blown lead in franchise history, and it left everyone inside Nationals Park stunned and dejected ... er, maybe not.

Danny Espinosa crushed a 1-0 pitch from Craig Kimbrel into the left-field bullpen to bring the Nats back from the dead and force extra innings. But the Braves never let up and pushed across the winning run in the 11th when Zimmerman followed a fantastic pick at third base with a terrible throw to first base and Ian Desmond couldn't make an incredible, over-the-shoulder catch of Paul Janish's blooper. The Nats went down in the bottom of the 11th and wound up suffering a crushing defeat after all.

Hitting highlight: Which three-run blast should we pick: Morse's first-inning bomb or Zimmerman's fourth-inning jack? Let's just talk about both. Morse's was something to behold, a 465-foot moonshot that struck the railing behind the picnic benches in the Red Porch. According to ESPN's Hit Tracker, it was the longest home run in Nationals Park history. Zimmerman's homer wasn't quite as titanic, but it did produce the night's loudest explosion from the crowd of 34,228. And it was merely the latest in a string of big hits from the third baseman, who since receiving his much-ballyhooed cortisone shot on June 24 has nine homers, 25 RBI, a .368 batting average and a .782 slugging percentage.

Pitching lowlight: Take your pick of late-inning relievers. Storen didn't retire either of the two batters he faced in the eighth. Burnett then walked two batters in a row, one with the bases loaded, and gave up a pair of RBI singles. But the biggest meltdown came from Clippard in the ninth. He walked Uggla to start things off, uncorked a wild pitch and then plunked the .118-hitting Janish in the back. That set the stage for Bourn's game-changing triple off the top of the right-field fence. It was Clippard's fourth straight shaky outing, and it's got to leave the Nationals deeply concerned.

Key stat: With an 0-for-5 showing, Bryce Harper saw his batting average fall to .269. That's the lowest it's been since May 25.

Up next: It's going to be a beautiful Saturday in the nation's capital ... so let's play two! Yep, we'll have a day-night doubleheader between the Nats and Braves. Edwin Jackson faces Ben Sheets in the 1:05 p.m. opener, then John Lannan makes his season debut against Randall Delgado in the 7:05 p.m. nightcap.

Quick Links

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

Quick Links

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

screen_shot_2018-02-12_at_2.39.40_pm.png
commons

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.

RELATED: NATS REVEAL 2018 SPRING TRAINING TV SCHEDULE

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.

RELATED: WHEN PITCHERS, CATCHERS REPORT FOR SPRING TRAINING