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Nats 2, Phillies 1: Harper homers, Scherzer dominates

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Nats 2, Phillies 1: Harper homers, Scherzer dominates

GAME IN NUTSHELL: Max Scherzer and Sean O'Sullivan had squared off twice already this season prior to Friday night, with Scherzer prevailing both times. And in each of those games, the Nationals ace was buoyed by a Bryce Harper homer off O'Sullivan.

So what happened in meeting No. 3 of the season? The exact same thing. Scherzer once again pitched a gem against the Phillies, tossing eight innings of 1-run ball. And Harper once again homered off O'Sullivan, giving him three in three games against the big right-hander.

The Nationals' go-ahead run, though, came in large part due to Scherzer, who led off the sixth with a single to right and then busted it 270 feet around the bases to score on Ian Desmond's RBI double off the center-field fence. The crowd of 35,893 was particularly impressed with that aspect of Scherzer's night.

Drew Storen pitched the ninth, protecting a 1-run lead, securing his 13th save in 14 tries and lowering his ERA to 0.98. And the Nats notched their sixth straight win, their 18th win in 22 games to match a club record and continue a torrid stretch of elite baseball.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Harper's latest home run was yet another jaw-dropper. Not because of how far he hit it, but because of how he hit it. Down 0-2 to O'Sullivan, Harper took a close curveball for a ball, showing the patience that has become his hallmark this season. Then he somehow managed to connect on a high fastball at his shoulders and drive it over the left-field fence, an impressive display of power once again from Harper, who is just on an insane tear at the plate. At that moment, he had 11 homers in a span of 45 at-bats. How crazy is that? Consider that if you took away all his non-homers from that stretch and turned them into outs, he'd still own a .244 batting average. Just nuts.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Just as we've come to expect Harper to homer every night, we've come to expect dominance from Scherzer every fifth night. And Friday night was no exception. The right-hander gave up a couple of well-struck balls to center field in the early innings, with Ryan Howard and Odubel Herrera combining to plate the Phillies' lone run. But he was lights-out after that, working quickly and efficiently to toss eight innings on 110 pitches. In the process, he became only the second pitcher in Nationals history to go at least seven innings in seven straight starts. Only Livan Hernandez has bested that, with eight straight such starts back in 2005.

KEY STAT: Five of Harper's six intentional walks this season have come via the Phillies pitching staff.

UP NEXT: The middle game of this series features Stephen Strasburg (3-4, 5.98) and Cole Hamels (4-3, 3.24) on the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Saturday.

MORE NATIONALS: Roark will return to Nats' rotation with Fister out

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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