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Instant analysis: Pirates 5, Nats 3

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Instant analysis: Pirates 5, Nats 3

Game in a nutshell: Unable to do anything against Pirates right-hander James McDonald for five innings, the Nationals finally came to life during a three-run sixth that included a two-run single by Ryan Zimmerman and an RBI triple (yes, triple) by Adam LaRoche. Unfortunately, the Nationals were already trailing by four runs at that point because Jordan Zimmermann served up three home runs (two of them to Andrew McCutchen). The Pirates tacked on another run against Craig Stammen in the seventh, then hung on to salvage a two-game series split.

Hitting lowlight: Yes, they produced some runs late. But let's focus on the first five innings of this game, when the Nationals' lineup was hogtied by McDonald. The right-hander retired the first 13 batters he faced, nine via strikeout. Most of those came on breaking balls. Bryce Harper finally broke up the perfect game when he drew a walk with one out in the fifth. But it wasn't until Jesus Flores doubled to open the sixth that McDonald's no-hit bid was quashed. For a Nationals lineup that had finally broken out over the last week, this was a backward step.
Pitching lowlight: Considering he had been credited with a quality start in each of his first seven outings this year, Zimmermann certainly was allowed to have a bit of an off-night. And it's not like the right-hander was completely off; he allowed four runs in six innings. Zimmermann did, however, throw some killer mistake pitches to Rod Barajas and McCutchen, who combined for three homers. Zimmermann also labored in the early innings, ratcheting up his pitch count and giving himself no chance to make it to the seventh or beyond.
Key stat: One night after coming a triple shy of the cycle, LaRoche tripled for only the 10th time in his career. His previous three-bagger came on Aug. 3, 2010 against ... the Nationals.
Up next: Let the Battle of the Beltways begin! For the first time, the Nationals and Orioles will meet with both teams boasting winning records. Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta square off in Friday's 7:05 p.m. interleague series opener.

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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.