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Key mistakes loom large in Nationals' 4-3 loss to Miami Marlins

Key mistakes loom large in Nationals' 4-3 loss to Miami Marlins

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 4-3 loss to the Miami Marlins on Monday night at Marlins Park.

How it happened: There have been plenty of times this season that Trea Turner has looked like a natural in center field, the position he converted to just over two months ago at Triple-A. There have also been times he has looked like a guy learning on the fly in a spot he's not all that comfortable playing.

In the Nats' 4-3 loss to the Marlins on Monday night, Turner misplayed a routine line drive hit his way in the sixth inning that led to the tying run for Miami. They then took the lead later in the inning and never looked back.

Turner's mistake came on a ball hit by Marlins infielder Derek Dietrich. He roped a slicing line drive hit just to Turner's right. The Nats rookie stepped towards the infield first, only to realize it was hit over his head. He retreated, but could only get a glove on the ball that rolled to the warning track and resulted in an RBI double.

Turner also misplayed a ball off the wall in the third inning by Marcell Ozuna by over-running it. That turned a double into a triple, but didn't end up hurting the Nats.

Dietrich's hit tied the game before Ichiro Suzuki's groundball to second scored Justin Bour to make it 4-3 Marlins in the sixth. Both runs were brought in against Nats pitcher Blake Treinen, but charged to Mat Latos, who was relieved after giving up two hits and a walk.

Rookie A.J. Cole started the game, but only made it four innings. He gave up two runs on four hits and two walks. One of those scores was a 466-foot homer hit by Giancarlo Stanton in the second inning. The other was on a Christian Yelich RBI double in the third.

The Nats got all their runs on one swing, a three-run homer by Danny Espinosa in the fifth inning. That gave them some much-needed life against Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen, who began his start with four scoreless frames. 

The Nats had another good chance in the ninth inning when Wilson Ramos led off with a double. He was replaced by Michael Taylor at second, but Taylor quickly got thrown out trying to take third on a Ryan Zimmerman infield grounder. It was an untimely mistake by Taylor, who was in scoring position representing the tying run.

The Nationals have lost three straight and four of their last six overall. The Marlins have won three of their last five vs. the Nats and evened up the season series at 7-7.

What it means: The Nats dropped to 88-62 on the season, but still saw their magic number fall by one thanks to the Mets' loss to the Braves. It is now at five. They are eight games up on New York.

Espinosa hits No. 22: Man, did Espinosa need this one. The Nats shortstop entered Monday night with just one hit across 20 at-bats in his previous seven games. It was his 22nd homer of the season, which established a new career-high. It is also one more than what he hit in 2014 and 2015 combined. Espinosa ranks fifth among MLB shortstops in homers and third in the NL. 

Cole so-so again: Cole wasn't great by any measure, but he still managed four innings of two-run ball. That's pretty much what we can expect from the rookie right-hander these days. He won't wow you and he's very unlikely to go deep into his start, but he can get you to the middle innings without it being a blowout. The Nats will take that at this point, considering what they've seen from other spot starters in recent months.

Cole now has a 4.68 ERA through six starts for the Nationals. Over his last three, he's given up nine earned runs in 14 innings of work. Cole is likely to make a few more starts before this season is over, as long as Stephen Strasburg is out.

Up next: The Nats and Marlins continue their series with another 7:10 p.m. start on Tuesday night. That one will pit two of the best starters in the NL up against each other in Tanner Roark (15-8, 2.75) and Marlins ace Jose Fernandez (15-8, 2.99).

[RELATED: Harper breaks hitless streak vs. Braves; will Nats clinch NL East soon?]

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm