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Instant analysis: Braves 7, Nats 5

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Instant analysis: Braves 7, Nats 5

Game in a nutshell: The thermometer read 104 degrees at gametime, an all-time record in Atlanta, and that spelled trouble for Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals. Strasburg lasted only three innings before he had to be pulled with "heat-related issues," and that forced Davey Johnson into using struggling long reliever Chien-Ming Wang in what was at the time a 3-2 game. Wang immediately gave up four runs in two innings, leaving the Nats in a 7-2 deficit. To their credit, they chipped away and got back to within two runs thanks to RBI hits from Tyler Moore, Jesus Flores and Adam LaRoche. In the end, the Nationals simply couldn't make it all the way back.

Hitting highlight: LaRoche has been in something of a prolonged slump for more than a month, but perhaps this game will help him snap out of it. The veteran first baseman roped two doubles and also drew two walks, scoring two runs in the process. Michael Morse's resurgence will prompt Johnson to slide LaRoche down to the 5-hole against both right-handers and left-handers moving forward, but his ability to produce from that spot will be crucial and prevent opposing teams from pitching around Morse. Today's game might have been a step in the right direction.

Pitching lowlight: Though he didn't give up a run or a hit in his first two innings, Strasburg obviously was laboring from the get-go. He took plenty of time in between pitches, was sweating profusely through his jersey and was expending lots of energy. It finally caught up to him in the third when the Braves turned two walks and two doubles into three runs. Strasburg walked ever so slowly off the field and looked like he needed some quality time in the air-conditioned clubhouse, except he was due up third in the top of the fourth. Not wanting to even swing the bat, Strasburg nonetheless drew a walk and thus had to run the bases. By the time that all ended, he was cooked. Despite an animated conversation in the dugout, the right-hander was pulled with "heat-related issues," an unfortunate end to a frustratingly brief day.

Key stat: In their eight-year history, Nationals have played five games with the temperature at first pitch over 100 degrees. Three of them have come this week in Colorado and Atlanta.

Up next: The thermometer is expected to reach triple-digits again Sunday when the Nationals and Braves close out this series. Gio Gonzalez faces Tim Hudson at 1:35 p.m.

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Why Bryce Harper would be a bargain at $500 million

Why Bryce Harper would be a bargain at $500 million

$500 million.

That number is so hard to wrap your brain around, but it's a number a lot of professional baseball players may soon start seeing on their contracts.

One player who could be the first to see that amount within the next year is Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper.

Harper will become a free agent in 2018 and people are already projecting his market value at close to $500 million, if not more.

Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton signed a contract back in 2014 for 13 years, $325 million, holding the league record.

For Fancy Stats writer Neil Greenberg, $500 million is a bargain for someone of Harper's caliber.

"Harper is every bit as good [as Stanton] but he's also young," Greenberg told the Sports Junkies Friday.

"I mean, we don't see a player that's as good as Harper, that's as young a Harper, hit the market almost ever I want to say. You look at how many years of his prime he has left and then even if you start to give him just the typical aging curb off of that prime, he's probably worth close to 570 million dollars starting from 2019 and going forward ten years. And that includes also the price of free agency going up and other factors."

Harper, who is only 25 years-old, brings more to a team than just talent. He's one of the most recognizable figures in baseball, bringing tremendous marketing opportunities to an organization. Greenberg dove deeper into how that will increase his market value.

"And that's just for the on-the-field product. You talk about all the marketing that's done around Bryce Harper [and] what he does for the game. In my opinion, and based on the numbers that I saw, he's a bargain at $500 million."

Don't we all wish someone would say $500 million is a bargain for us?

After crunching the numbers, the biggest takeaway for Greenberg is the return on investment the Nationals have gotten out of Harper.

"Like if you look at his wins above replacement throughout his career, he's given you 200 million dollars in value for 21 million dollars in cash and he's due what another 26 or 27 million this year. I mean he's already given you an amazing return on investment."

"So, if you're the Nationals having - benefited from that - you know you have a little bit of, I guess, wiggle room in terms of maybe you're paying a little bit for past performance 'cause, you know, when a player is on arbitration in their early years they don't really get paid that much."

The Nationals still have Harper for one more season and many feel they need to make him an offer sooner than later. Whenever and whoever he gets an offer from, it's going to be a nice pay day for him.

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Nats' Max Scherzer wins second straight NL Cy Young Award

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Nats' Max Scherzer wins second straight NL Cy Young Award

Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals has coasted to his third Cy Young Award and second straight in the National League.

Scherzer breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

The honor was announced Wednesday on MLB Network.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit. He became the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs.

RELATED: WIETERS WILL RETURN TO NATS IN 2018 

Scherzer was 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA and a league-leading 268 strikeouts for the NL East champion Nationals.

Kershaw has already won three NL Cy Youngs, and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts.

Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians easily won his second AL Cy Young Award earlier in the day. He got 28 of the 30 first-place votes, with Boston's Chris Sale second and Luis Severino of the New York Yankees third.

Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball.