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Instant Analysis: Marlins 9, Nats 7

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Instant Analysis: Marlins 9, Nats 7

Game in a nutshell: They came out to watch Stephen Strasburg make his final home start of the season. They wound up watching the soon-to-be-shutdown ace get rocked again by the pesky Marlins, knocked out after allowing five runs in only three innings. That certainly put a damper on the evening, only made worse when rookie right-hander Jacob Turner all but shut down the Nationals' lineup for six innings. Then Ozzie Guillen handed the ball to his bullpen, and guess what happened? Yep, the Nationals came storming back, scoring three runs off Carlos Zambrano in the seventh and then getting the game-tying homer from Michael Morse in the eighth. Just like that, the game was tied 6-6 and headed for a dramatic finish. Bryce Harper supplied the firepower, throwing out Greg Dobbs at the plate to prevent the tying run from scoring in the top of the ninth, but neither Harper nor Ryan Zimmerman could drive in the winning run in the bottom of the inning. So the game went extras, with Tyler Clippard forced to pitch in a non-save situation. The Nats closer promptly gave up Jose Reyes' two-run triple and then a sacrifice fly that brought home the third run of the top of the 10th. The Nationals tried to mount one more rally in the bottom of the inning, getting a fluke assist when Morse's liner struck second base umpire Tony Randazzo to score Adam LaRoche. But with the bases loaded and one out, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth each struck out. Thus the Nationals suffered a frustrating loss, which combined with the Braves' 3-0 win in New York closed the gap in the NL East to 6 12 games.

Hitting highlight: They were stymied all night by Turner (aside from Zimmerman's first-inning homer) but the Nationals lineup sprung to life once the Miami bullpen took over. Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Kurt Suzuki all recorded big hits in the seventh. Morse then provided the big blast in the eighth that tied the game. It was his 13th homer of the season, 10 of them hit to the right of straightaway center field. This one energized the crowd for a little while, but the ballpark fell silent again when the rest of the Nationals lineup couldn't produce the game-winning hit late.

Pitching lowlight: What can you say? Strasburg just wasn't any good. He walked the very first batter of the night, and things only went downhill from there. He served up homers to both Rob Brantley and Giancarlo Stanton, each on fastballs right down the heart of the strike zone. He walked three batters. And he needed 67 pitches to get through only three innings. It was an incredibly disappointing way for Strasburg's home finale to play out, and it left the crowd in a state of shock and not sure how to respond. In the end, it's perhaps not that surprising Strasburg struggled like this. He's been wildly inconsistent during the second half of the year, alternating between dominant and eminently hittable. That's a trademark description of how pitchers in their first full year back from Tommy John surgery often look.

Key stat: The ERAs of the Nationals' five starters since the All-Star break: Ross Detwiler 2.79, Gio Gonzalez 3.05, Edwin Jackson 3.47, Jordan Zimmermann 3.67, Stephen Strasburg 3.73.

Up next: The series continues with a rare, 1:05 p.m. Saturday matinee. Detwiler seeks to become the fourth member of the Nats rotation with 10 wins. Ricky Nolasco starts for the Marlins.

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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.