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Late inning heroics lift Nats to win

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Late inning heroics lift Nats to win

HOUSTON (AP) -- Danny Espinosa hit a two-run homer early, and his RBI single in the 12th inning lifted the Washington Nationals to a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

Michael Morse was 0 for 4 when he doubled to start the 12th inning and extend his career-high hitting streak to 16 games. He was replaced by pinch-runner Cesar Izturis, who was making his first appearance for Washington after being claimed off waivers from Milwaukee on Monday.

Roger Bernadina advanced Izturis to third with a sacrifice bunt. Espinosa's sharp grounder off Mickey Storey (0-1) skipped past the pitcher for a hit that brought Izturis home and gave the Nationals their second straight extra-inning win over Houston.

The loss dropped the Astros to 0-11 in extra-inning games this season. Washington beat them 5-4 in 11 innings on Monday.

Houston's Steve Pearce singled off Tyler Clippard in the 12th before Carlos Corporan drew a two-out walk. Bernadina, the center fielder, crashed into the wall while making a diving catch on a ball hit by Brett Wallace to secure the win.

Washington pinch-hitter Chad Tracy doubled with two outs in the 10th for the only hit by either team in the first two extra innings.

Drew Storen (1-0) retired the last two hitters in the 11th for the win, and Clippard earned his 23rd save.

Pearce drew a two-out walk in the ninth before Ryan Mattheus intentionally walked pinch-hitter Scott Moore, but pinch-hitter Brian Bogusevic grounded out to send the game to the 10th.

Ben Francisco gave Houston an early lead with a two-run homer off Ross Detwiler to the Crawford Boxes in left field in the first inning. The lead was short-lived as Espinosa tied it at 2-all with his two-run shot to right field off Jordan Lyles in the second.

Both pitchers quickly got back on track.

Detwiler set down the next 10 Astros he faced, with Houston's next hit not coming until back-to-back singles by Pearce and Matt Downs with two outs in the fourth inning.

Detwiler retired Brandon Barnes, who was making his major league debut on Tuesday, and allowed just one baserunner -- a walk in the sixth -- after that. He was replaced by Michael Gonzalez for the eighth inning.

Detwiler allowed three hits and two runs with two strikeouts in seven innings.

Jose Altuve recorded Houston's first hit since the fourth inning with a two-out single in the eighth. He stole second base, but the Astros came away empty when Michael Gonzalez retired Marwin Gonzalez.

Lyles was equally effective, retiring the next nine batters he faced after the homer. Jesus Flores broke the streak with a double with two outs in the fifth.

Lyles walked a batter in the sixth and seventh innings, but didn't give up another hit until he was chased by a single by pinch-hitter Jayson Werth to start the eighth.

Wesley Wright replaced Lyles and struck out two, before Fernando Rodriguez threw 1 1-3 perfect innings.

Lyles yielded three hits and two runs with six strikeouts in seven-plus innings.

NOTES: Werth, who left Monday night's game with sore legs, was held out of the lineup on Tuesday, but he pinch-hit in the eighth inning. Werth was reinstated last Thursday after missing almost three months with a broken left wrist. ... Houston placed CF Jordan Schafer on the 15-day disabled list with an injured left shoulder on Tuesday. The Astros aren't sure how long the injury will keep him out. "I really have no timetable," Schafer said. "Whenever I feel healthy, whenever I get better, then I'll get back in there." Houston purchased the contract of Barnes to take Schafer's spot on the roster.

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

Its 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