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Nationals beat Mets 4-3 with huge 8th-inning rally


Nationals beat Mets 4-3 with huge 8th-inning rally

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals insisted all along they weren't going to place extra emphasis on this series, no matter how big the Mets tried to make it. Well, down to their last four outs and in danger of seeing their lead in the division fall to one measly game, the Nats might have suddenly felt a sense of urgency at last. And thanks to a couple huge hits by Michael Taylor and Danny Espinosa, they stole this game back, took the series and dealt their chief NL East rival a big blow. 

Taylor's 2-out, 2-run single to left off Bobby Parnell in the bottom of the eighth turned a 2-run deficit into a tie game. And after he stole second, the Nationals rookie outfielder then scored on Espinosa's opposite-field double, giving the Nats their first lead of the day and leaving the sellout crowd of 41,291 jumping up and down in celebration.

The victory did come at a potential cost, with Yunel Escobar appearing to suffer a left wrist injury during his second-inning at-bat, ultimately walking directly off the field after fouling off a pitch and dropping his bat in obvious pain. If the veteran third baseman is seriously injured, he would become the fifth member of the Nationals' regular lineup to take up space on the DL.

That, though, only made Wednesday's come-from-behind win sweeter, because it was sorely needed on a day that was looking mighty bad for the Nats. Instead, they now head to Pittsburgh with a 3-game lead on New York, hoping they can now start getting some of these injured regulars back in their lineup.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: He still has his rookie moments, but Taylor has sure delivered his share of big moments as well this summer. He had already driven in the Nationals' first run of the day with a 2-out single to left in the bottom of the fourth. Then he delivered an even bigger one in the bottom of the eighth. With the count 3-2 after a wild pitch moved two runners into scoring position, he drilled a sharp single to left as the crowd exploded. That gives Taylor 35 RBI in 256 at-bats this season, not bad at all for a rookie who has mostly hit first or eighth in the Nationals' lineup.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: For the most part, Zimmermann was quite effective. But a ragged top of the fourth kind of spoiled his outing. The Mets strung together four hits in the frame, including back-to-back 2-out RBI knocks from Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Kevin Plawecki. Otherwise, Zimmermann was solid, putting only three other batters on base and letting only one other reach scoring position. He finished strong, too, retiring the last seven batters he faced before departing with his pitch count at 102. 

KEY STAT: Bryce Harper's 6.6 WAR (according to Baseball-Reference's formula) through 92 games already ranks as the second-best season in Nationals club history. Only Ryan Zimmerman's 7.3 WAR in 2009 was better.

UP NEXT: The Nats head out of town for a tough, 10-game road trip, with plenty more elite pitchers waiting for them. It begins Thursday in Pittsburgh, when Francisco Liriano (5-6, 2.98) starts for the Pirates against Doug Fister (3-5, 4.30) at 7:05 p.m.

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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.