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Nationals on cusp of elimination after ugly 8-2 loss to Phillies

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Nationals on cusp of elimination after ugly 8-2 loss to Phillies

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals already were moving ever closer to elimination when they took the field for the opener of a weekend series with the Phillies. The crowd of 31,019 that gathered on South Capitol Street did so knowing the outcome of the game would be secondary to the reception the man on the mound, Jordan Zimmermann, would receive in what everyone knew would be his final home appearance with the organization.

That crowd, though, never got the opportunity to shower the right-hander with gratitude for his seven seasons of service. Zimmermann was roughed up by the Phillies for six runs, four of them coming on Aaron Altherr's inside-the-park grand slam past a diving Michael Taylor in shallow center field. Worse, he was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth, removed from the game out of sight from a fan base that simply wanted to thank him.

That's the kind of night it was, with the Phillies' unheralded lineup homering four times while the Nationals struck out 10 times in seven innings against rookie Jerad Eickhoff. All the while, the Mets were cruising in Cincinnati, determined to reduce their magic number to clinch the NL East title to 1.

The champagne will be on ice Saturday inside the visitors' clubhouse at Great American Ball Park. It's too late now for the Nationals to do anything to stop what most have accepted as inevitable for several weeks.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: It was news when Bryce Harper went hitless against the Orioles earlier this week, the first time he had gone three straight games without a hit this season. But at least he drew seven walks in the series. Tonight, the Phillies offered Harper no free passes and still lived to tell the story. Eickhoff struck him out three times, with Harper never looking comfortable at the plate against the rookie right-hander. This was only the fourth time a pitcher struck out the presumptive NL MVP three times in a game this year. The others: Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: This had the potential to be something special for Zimmermann and a ballpark full of fans wanting to show appreciation for his seven seasons in a Nats uniform. It wound up being the polar opposite of something special. Zimmermann gave up six runs in five innings (the fifth time he has allowed that many runs this season after going through all of 2014 without doing it once). To be fair, his final line might have read completely different if not for Taylor's missed diving attempt on Altherr's sinking liner to center, resulting in the inside-the-park grand slam. That said, Zimmermann still served up two more conventional homers. All of that probably would have been excused by the crowd, though, had Zimmermann been pulled from the game mid-inning, with a chance to walk off the mound to a standing ovation. Instead, Wilmer Difo was sent up to pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the fifth. A crowd that understood what was most significant about this game — Zimmermann received significant applause when he entered from the bullpen, not a common occurrence — never got its opportunity to say thank you to arguably the best pitcher who has called D.C. home in the last decade.

KEY STAT: Aaron Altherr's inside-the-park grand slam was the first in the majors since Tampa Bay's Randy Winn on Oct. 3, 1999.

UP NEXT: Stephen Strasburg (10-7, 3.81) looks to continue his late-season surge when he takes the mound at 4:05 p.m. Saturday. The Phillies give the ball to rookie right-hander Aaron Nola (6-2, 3.84).

MORE NATIONALS: Pete Rose meets with baseball commissioner

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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
 

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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?

RELATED: 2018 SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

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.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE