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Nats are under .500, yet somehow still in playoff race

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Nats are under .500, yet somehow still in playoff race

Before Sunday, the Nationals had enjoyed rare success against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. They had beaten him in their previous five matchups, they crushed him on the Fourth of July and they even gave him his only loss in the 2014 postseason.

Naturally, that was not to continue forever, and Bumgarner finally broke through at what was the worst of times for the Nationals. The Giants lefty carved up the Nats in nine shutout innings with 14 strikeouts, one walk and just three hits allowed on Sunday. The 2014 World Series MVP also added a home run (his 4th of the season) and an RBI double. He's the first pitcher since Steve Carlton in 1977 to strike out 14 and hit a home run in the same game.

The Nationals didn't even move a runner past second base in Sunday's 5-0 loss. All three hits Bumgarner allowed were singles. He also set a career-high by getting the Nats to miss on 46 percent of their swings. His previous best was 29 percent.

It was another awful performance for the Nats in a long string of them. They are now losers of six straight - matching their longest losing streak since 2009 - and sit at 10-20 since the All-Star break. Sunday's defeat moved them to 58-59 on the year, or below the .500 mark for the first time since May 6.

Add it all up and the details are frightening. The Nationals have a losing record on August 17. In almost any other year or any other division in baseball, their season would essentially be over. The obituaries would already be written. Better luck next year.

How could they possibly still be in the playoff race, despite them playing arguably their worst baseball since Mike Rizzo took over as GM? Well, fortunately for the Nats, they are in one of the worst MLB divisions in recent history.

The 2015 Washington Nationals may simply not be a good team, but neither are the 2015 New York Mets. While the Nats were getting their clocks cleaned by the Giants, the Mets were also looking like the inferior club against a team with a better record.

The Mets were swept by the Pirates over the weekend, so the Nationals did not lose any ground in the division race in the last three days. The deficit remains at 4 1/2 games in the division, despite a 9 1/2 (!) game hole in the NL Wild Card race. If it weren't for the NL East being so terrible, the Nationals would be toast.

But, as several Nats players will tell you, they just have to beat the Mets. Right now New York is on pace to win just 86 games. If they won the NL East with just 86 wins, they would be the worst division winner since the 2008 Dodgers who went 84-78.

Every once in a while this type of thing happens in the NFL, where a team will win its division with a losing record or not much better. It starts up debates about the division format itself and whether it rewards teams that have no business being in the playoffs. That's basically what is happening here. Neither the Nationals or Mets looks deserving of a playoff spot right now, but that is the reality we face.

It may be a terrible thing for the Giants, for example, who right now sit outside of the final playoff spot despite holding a better record than the division-leading Mets. But for the Nats, it's a gift of incredible luck. This team is on pace to be worse than the 2013 club that missed the playoffs. Yet they are still within striking distance of repeating as division champs.

Now, that shouldn't make any Nationals fan feel particularly good about how the team is playing right now. They aren't playing up to their capabilities whatsoever, especially given their relative health at this point. They have run out of excuses and they just keep on losing.

But the current state of the NL East should give Nats fans at least a small glimmer of hope, that it's not all over yet. The Nationals could still turn this thing around and make something of what is inching closer to being a lost season.

Of course, we've been saying some variation that for weeks now, and time is legitimately running out. They have 45 games left to figure it out, but somehow they still have a chance.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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