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Moore connects for rare pinch-hit homer

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Moore connects for rare pinch-hit homer

PHOENIX — It's perhaps the toughest task in baseball, coming off the bench cold and asked to deliver a big hit late in a close ballgame. And Tyler Moore has spent the better part of four seasons now trying to get better at something so many accomplished players simply can't perfect.

So when Moore came through with his biggest hit of the young season Wednesday afternoon, crushing a game-tying, 2-run homer off the foul pole in the top of the sixth at Chase Field, it felt particularly significant for the Nationals' reserve outfielder/first baseman.

"Those are really nice," said Moore, who hadn't homered as a pinch-hitter since Sept. 2012. "But it feels the exact opposite when you go up there and ground out or strikeout or whatever it is. It's good just to come in and put the barrel of the bat on the ball and kind of get some life back into the team."

Moore's pinch-hit homer off Randal Delgado was a key blast in what became a 9-6 victory for the Nationals over the Diamondbacks. And it was the latest hit off the bench for Moore, who has to date become far more productive in this role than he has been in awhile.

After making a name for himself as a clutch bench player during his rookie season in 2012, Moore really struggled to produce in a reserve role the last two seasons. He was a combined 2-for-32 with 20 strikeouts as a pinch-hitter in 2013 and 2014.

That may be changing in 2015. Moore now is 4-for-15 as a pinch-hitter this season, a more-than-respectable .267 batting average in a role that often leads to sub-Mendoza Line numbers for others.

Moore has gotten better at it over the last few years, recognizing the need to be aggressive as a pinch-hitter without trying too hard to change the game on one swing.

"I think you've just got to really know the situation," Moore said. "Sometimes there's points to being aggressive. And then sometimes ... maybe you haven't seen a [pitcher] ... You just want to be hunting in the zone and just ready to hit, basically."

It has taken Moore several years to get the hang of pinch-hitting, and he still goes through his slumps at the plate. But he has shown signs of progress, as has the Nationals bench as a whole. After seeing their pinch-hitters bat a collective .144 last season, they've improved that number to .214 this season.

It may not sound like much, but the Nationals now rank 16th in the majors in pinch-hit batting average, 14th in OPS.

"Coming off the bench is never really a comfortable spot," Moore said. "You want to get in there and give yourself the best chance to succeed. Those guys are out there fighting. You just want to do good for the team. So I was glad I was able to help out a little bit today."

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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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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