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Liriano sharp, Fister struggles, as Pirates drop Nats

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Liriano sharp, Fister struggles, as Pirates drop Nats

By WILL GRAVES

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Francisco Liriano allowed three hits over six-plus dominant innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates raced by the Washington Nationals 7-3 on Thursday night.

Liriano (6-6) struck out 11 against three walks as the Pirates returned from a miserable post All-Star break road trip to drop the NL East-leading Nationals. Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Francisco Cervelli homered for Pittsburgh, which ended a seven-game losing streak to Washington.

Starling Marte and Jung Ho Kang added two hits apiece for the Pirates, who acquired third baseman Aramis Ramirez from Milwaukee before the game to bolster an infield dealing with injuries to Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer.

Doug Fister (3-6) labored through five innings, giving up four runs and nine hits to drop his third straight decision. Ian Desmond had two of Washington's six hits, including a two-run homer in the ninth.

The Pirates came home for a brief four-game series against the Nationals following a bumpy start to the season's second half. Pittsburgh dropped five of six on the road and watched Mercer join Harrison on the disabled list with a sprained left knee. Neither player will return until late-August at the earliest, leading the Pirates to bring back the 37-year-old Ramirez a dozen years to the day they shipped him to the Chicago Cubs.

Pittsburgh hopes Ramirez can provide some punch to an offense that can be spotty at times. Pitching isn't an issue for the team with the second-best ERA in the majors, and Liriano had little trouble overwhelming the Nationals. He struck out nine of the first 13 batters he faced and didn't allow a ball out of the infield until Desmond's single to left with Clint Robinson on first and no outs in the fifth.

Robinson eventually scored following a pair of wild pitches by Liriano, who settled down to get out of the inning with a 2-1 lead intact.

Pittsburgh quickly added on to give Liriano plenty of room to work. Marte singled off Fister with one out in the bottom of the fifth and scored on a double by Kang, who then came home following a fielder's choice by Alvarez to make it 4-1. Liriano eventually left after giving up a leadoff double to Robinson in the seventh, but reliever Jared Hughes left Robinson stranded at third.

McCutchen's 13th homer of the season -- a two-run shot off Tanner Roark in the seventh -- pushed Pittsburgh's lead to five as Pittsburgh improved to 10-1 in their last 11 games at PNC Park.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Washington: 3B Yunel Escobar did not start, but was available to play a day after collapsing to the ground in pain while trying to check his swing against the Mets. X-rays and a CT scan on Escobar's left wrist were negative.

Pittsburgh: Mercer walked into the clubhouse with barely a limp on Thursday and is optimistic he will be back sooner rather than later after heading to the 15-day disabled list on Monday with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Mercer injured the knee following a hard slide into second by Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Max Scherzer faces the Pirates for the first time since tossing the first no-hitter of his career against Pittsburgh last month. Scherzer struck out 10 and came within a strike of a perfect game a 6-0 win on June 20, his only misstep coming when he hit Pittsburgh pinch-hitter Jose Tabata in the elbow with two outs in the ninth. Scherzer is 10-8 overall but just 1-3 in July thanks in large part to a lack of support. The Nationals have managed one run in the three losses.

Pirates: Jeff Locke (5-6, 4.01 ERA) has a 2.53 ERA in two starts against Washington, both non-decisions.

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

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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