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Nats banged up in 4-2 victory over Padres, win third straight series

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Nats banged up in 4-2 victory over Padres, win third straight series

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Needing a win to take their third consecutive series — and then hoping beyond hope the Mets would actually lose a ballgame for a change — the Nationals turned to their surprising rookie right-hander and watched as he pitched yet another gem.

Joe Ross allowed only one run (unearned) on one hit (a bunt) over six standout innings before getting an early trip to the showers while the organization tries to limit his innings before he is expected to be shut down in the next couple of weeks. No problem, because that simply set the stage for the Nationals to use the back end of their bullpen as they've intended to use it for the last month.

Before that happened, they got some big hits to take a lead, including solo homers from Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. They also got a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch to force in a run, though it came at a price: Yunel Escobar went down in a heap after taking that fastball to his right wrist and wound up leaving the game. The Nats also lost Michael Taylor to an apparent right knee injury on a scary collision with the center field wall, a potentially huge blow given the fact Denard Span wasn't available to play when his back acted up after two games off the DL.

Despite a makeshift defensive alignment that saw Bryce Harper in center field, Trea Turner at second base and Danny Espinosa in left field, the Nationals somehow prevailed. And so they have won six of their last nine games, taking three straight series in the process as they attempt to go on a late-season surge.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: There are few better signs for the Nationals these days than Werth and Zimmerman hitting with authority and hitting for power. We've begun to see it the last few days in particular, and saw both go deep in this game. Werth launched only his second home run since breaking his wrist in May; he now sports a .306/.405/.528 slash line since moving up to the No. 1 or No. 2 spot in the lineup last week. Zimmerman, meanwhile, launched another home run to right-center field, the same location his grand slam landed in the other night. Those are especially encouraging developments for the Nats as September looms.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: What more can you say about the job Ross has done this season? He hasn't merely pitched well, he has pitched well despite doing so under the weight of a pennant race as part of a star-studded rotation that collectively hasn't lived up to its reputation. Ross was at it again in this game, allowing just one hit over his six innings. And that hit was a 15-foot bunt by Cory Spangenberg that was promptly thrown away by Wilson Ramos, letting Spangenberg advance all the way to third base. The decision to pull Ross after six innings and 77 pitches caught many by surprise, but the Nationals are dealing with a rookie on an innings limit. Perhaps by pulling him early in this game, they'll be able to squeeze a few more out of him in the next week or two before he's shut down.

KEY STAT: Escobar has been forced to leave a game injured eight times this season, five times with an injury to one of his hands or wrists.

UP NEXT: The Marlins come to town for a 3-game weekend series. It'll be Max Scherzer (11-10, 2.79) vs. left-hander Adam Conley (1-1, 4.88) in Friday's 7:05 p.m. opener.

MORE NATIONALS: Taylor leaves Nats-Padres game after colliding with wall

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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?

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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