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Instant analysis: Nats 8, Cardinals 1

Instant analysis: Nats 8, Cardinals 1

Game in a nutshell: Having exorcised their demons after a five-game losing streak, the Nationals came home a relaxed and loose bunch, ready to open a season-long, 11-game homestand. Then they went out and thumped the defending World Series champions with an impressive top-to-bottom effort. Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper each homered to ignite the lineup, and Edwin Jackson took care of everything else after that. The right-hander did not allow an earned run over eight spectacular innings, striking out 10 and earning his eighth win in the process. With that lopsided victory, the Nationals improved to 28 games over .500. And with the Braves off, they extended their lead in the NL East to 5 12 games.

Hitting highlight: When they're both going well, Werth and Harper give the Nationals as potent a 1-2 punch atop their lineup as perhaps any team in baseball. They did it all tonight, with Werth reaching base three times via a walk, a single and a homer (and also driving in another run on a fielder's choice) and Harper launching his third homer in 24 hours plus drilling a two-out, RBI single in the sixth. Werth has been nothing short of remarkable since his return from a broken wrist. In 25 games now, the veteran right fielder is hitting .337 with a .408 on-base percentage and .478 slugging percentage. Not too shabby for a leadoff hitter.

Pitching highlight: Jackson would certainly have been justified if he took the mound tonight with a little added motivation. Facing the team he helped lead to a World Series title last fall (but didn't show any serious interest in re-signing him over the winter) the right-hander authored perhaps his best performance of the season. Jackson struck out three batters in the top of the first and never let up, finishing with 10 punch-outs while racking up 123 pitches over eight innings. It was a big-time start against the best-hitting lineup in the NL.

Key stat: Jackson's ninth strikeout of the night was the 1,069th by a Nationals pitcher this season. That established a new club record, besting the total set by the 2010 pitching staff over a full 162 games.

Up next: Game 2 of this four-game series features a big-time pitching matchup. Gio Gonzalez again seeks his 17th win of the season, with former 20-game winner Adam Wainwright on the mound for St. Louis at 7:05 p.m. Friday.

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Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Wieters aren't the only important guys within the Nationals organization becoming free agents in 2019.

President of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo is also becoming a free agent when his contract expires on October 31st.

In the final year of his five-year contract, the 57-year old is set to make $2.5 million.

RELATED: HOWIE KENDRICK RETURNING TO NATIONALS

Since joining the organization, Rizzo has turned the team into a legit World Series contender. They've won four division titles in the last six years under his guidance, but have been unable to get over the NL Division series hump. And even though that's a glaring red mark on his resume, Rizzo knows the success he's brought to the organization. 

When you look at what we accomplished,’’ Mike Rizzo said in a recent interview, “it’s really unsung and underappreciated. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished here. I like it here. I love the city. I love the team I put together. I like being a GM in the NL East. And I want to stay here. I just think I deserve to be treated like some of the best GMs in the game are, too.

Rizzo is talking about GM's like Cubs' Theo Epstein and Yankees' Brian Cashman, who've received big paydays over the last year.

I know we haven’t won the World Series, but I get tired of hearing how we can’t win the big one, or we can’t get out of the first round. We haven’t had that many chances.

Does Rizzo deserve an extension? The Sports Junkies think he does, but with GM's like the ones above cashing out, they can also see him wanting to test the open market.

"Why wouldn't they?", said Jason Bishop, noting his track record.

"There's a sense he wants to test the market," said Eric Bickel. That's the vibe I'm getting from him."

Rizzo is a weekly guest on the Junkies and has said that the organization will figure it out. However, the 2018 season may be the last time for a long time the Nats have a real shot at making a run before they lose some of their stars to other teams. If Rizzo does take that into consideration and decides to go elsewhere, the Junkies don't see him having any issues finding employment.

"If there was a time to roll, it would be after this season when you get your last run with this group," said Eric Bickel. And then If they don't pay you what you think you deserve, he'll be snatched up in 22 seconds."

RELATED: BEST OF NATS' RACING PRESIDENT TRYOUTS

If they do decide to sign him to an extension, will it be a long, drawn-out ordeal? The Junkies disagree on that one. 

"He is too valuable, Jason Bishop said. He's too valuable. You gotta ink him to a deal sometime during the season."

Luckily for D.C. sports fans, long, drawn-out extension talks aren't foreign to them.

To see their full discussion, click the media player above. 

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

WASHINGTON  -- The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with outfielder Howie Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical.

Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday. USA Today was first to report the deal.

Kendrick, 34, hit .293 with seven home runs and RBIs in 52 games with Washington after he was acquired from Philadelphia. The versatile right-handed hitter got just three plate appearances off the bench in the playoffs.

In 12 major league seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Dodgers, Phillies and Nationals, Kendrick is a .291 hitter with a .755 OPS. He's now primarily an outfielder for Washington after playing left field, second base, first base and other positions throughout his career.