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Murphy again HRs Nats past Mets in final game before All-Star break

Murphy again HRs Nats past Mets in final game before All-Star break

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 3-2 win over the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field.

How it happened: The Nats began their four-game series at the Mets with a disappointing loss, but their weekend couldn't have ended much better. The Nationals closed the first half of the season with a 3-2 win over New York on Sunday afternoon, their third straight win overall and one that extended their lead over the Mets to six games, matching a season-high. Sure, Washington has minor concerns involving their bullpen and Joe Ross is rehabbing on the disabled list, but compared to the Mets, the Nats are walking into the All-Star break after closing about as good a first-half as they could ask for, with a clear standing as the best team in the NL East.

What happens from here on out will be determined by lots of things. Can the Mets get healthy and work the trade deadline as masterfully as they did in 2015? Can the Marlins find another gear, perhaps once Dee Gordon returns from his suspension? For the Nats, they just need to keep doing what they're doing and hope Daniel Murphy doesn't one day wake up and realize he's human.

Murphy was the star once again on Sunday with a two-run homer in the first inning, his third of the series. Every time it seems like he's done something amazing against his former team, he hits the gas and tops himself, taking retribution to lengths that are almost cruel. The Mets have been decimated by injuries and every time they see Murphy he reminds them of what they allowed to get away.

This time Murphy's victim was Steven Matz, who was nowhere near as good this time as he was against the Nationals in D.C. on May 25. Matz allowed three runs on six hits and four walks in seven innings of work. The other run was on a Wilson Ramos RBI double in the third inning.

Gio Gonzalez was also a tad wild with four walks of his own, but he managed 5 2/3 frames with two runs allowed and four hits. Both runs came on solo homers by Jose Reyes, who had three total in the series. Gonzalez was pulled for Tanner Roark, who was able to go 2 1/3 innings, thanks to the upcoming days off.

The Nationals tied a franchise record with their 54th win before the All-Star break, matching the 1994 Montreal Expos.

What it means: The Nationals closed the first half of the season with three straight wins and a 54-46 overall record. They moved to 9-4 against the Mets this year, which tops their win total in the 2015 head-to-head series. The Nats and Mets will not meet again until Sept. 2 in New York.

Murphy vs. the Mets, Part 13: What more is there to say? Murphy once again led the Nationals to a victory over the Mets with a two-run homer, his seventh this season against the Mets alone. He now has 21 RBI vs. New York, which ties him for the most for any player against any single opponent so far this season. Murphy's homer was his 17th of the season, his second in as many games and his third of this series. He is now batting .423 (22-of-52) with hits in all 13 games he's played against the Mets this year. Murphy enters the All-Star break with a .348 batting average, best in the majors.

Gio shows progress: Gonzalez may still be far off from the pitcher we saw storm out of the gate in April, but Sunday was the third straight outing for him in which he showed positive signs of getting back on track. Gonzalez made it 5 2/3 innings and only allowed two earned runs, the first time since May 18 that he's given up less than three in a start. His fastball was also slightly faster than normal, hitting 93 and 94 on occasion.

Walks continue to be an issue for Gonzalez, who issued four in this one. He's given up at least three walks in five of his last six starts. Manager Dusty Baker left Gonzalez out there with a one-run lead in the sixth inning, but pulled him after he allowed a two-out single to Juan Lagares on his 108th pitch of the afternoon. Roark took over from there and tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings to bridge the Nats to the ninth where Jonathan Papelbon earned his 19th save of the year.

Werth fills up the box score: Two of the Nationals' three runs on Sunday were scored by Jayson Werth, who reached three times with a single and two walks. His single came right before Murphy's homer, and he also scored in the third inning on Ramos' double. Werth got that rally started with a leadoff walk. He then moved to second on a Murphy groundout and then third with his third stolen base of the season. All three of Werth's steals this year have taken third base. And with Sunday's he is now 126-for-146 in his career, which gives him the third-best steal percentage (86.3) of all-time. That's not bad for a 37-year-old, who has now reached safely in 19 straight games with 21 walks and a .440 on-base percentage during that stretch.

Up next: The Nationals take most of the week off for the All-Star break with a long homestand on the other end set to begin Friday with the Pittsburgh Pirates in town. The Nationals haven't announced who will start that game, but with a chance to reset their rotation, it will likely be Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg, depending on if Scherzer appears in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?


Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.


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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine


Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.


He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.