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Nats' bench has 'gamers' that continue to produce when called upon

Nats' bench has 'gamers' that continue to produce when called upon

One of the benefits of having a quality bench is the ability rest regulars without fear of a significant drop off. And with the way the Nationals reserves have been playing this season, Dusty Baker shouldn't have to think twice about giving the likes of Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa a day off, as he did in Saturday's 8-0 win over the Phillies. 

"They’re always prepared," the Nats' manager said of his bench. "That makes it easier on me for when I call upon a guy."

With the trio of veteran starters out of the lineup, it was up to Clint Robinson, Michael Taylor and Stephen Drew to pick up the slack — and they did so with ease. They were a combined 7-for-11 with three RBIs, punctuating what has been an explosive week for the Nats offense. And for good measure, even Chris Heisey notched a pinch-hit double and scored in the eighth inning, giving the usual bench crew (minus backup catcher Jose Lobaton) a hit on the afternoon. 

"We're all, I'd like to use the term 'gamers', I guess," Robinson said. "We do what we need to do to stay ready. We're three months into the season now and we know the gig, so guys do what they have to do to stay ready and we're lucky enough to go out and have some good games and be productive."

"I think it's really good right now," Taylor added. "I think everybody's just going in there trying to do something to help the team. Not always trying to get that homer....everyone's staying ready and locked in."

Of course, many of Baker's reserves have earned the right to start occasionally based on how they've come up big in pinch-hit situations. The Nats already have eight pinch-hit home runs on the year, tying the single-season team record with more than a half of the 2016 campaign left to go. 

So how is it that this motley crew — one mostly comprised of veterans used to playing everyday earlier in their careers — can come in cold and continue to perform? 

"Number one, they work hard," Baker said. "And they don’t get caught off guard. Because if anything, you can always turn it off if you’re not called upon, but it’s hard to turn it on all of a sudden."

"Turning it on" isn't easy to do, but the Nats have found a way to assemble a group of reserves that have each found their respective niche and excelled. Of course, a productive bench is not the end-all be-all for a club with playoff aspirations, but it's something that could be an X factor should the Nats find themselves in a pennant race down the road. 

"The bench is gonna be crucial," Robinson said, "just like it is to every winning team, and I think right now all the guys are doing a pretty good job."

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again — when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner — and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down — in order — the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful — and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats. 


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Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches


Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches

We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we can watch a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (attempt to) hit against a three-time Cy Young pitcher in a Major League Baseball preseason game.

Max Scherzer took less than a minute to strike out Tim Tebow, who was batting cleanup for the Mets in a spring training game Friday. You can watch the whole at-bat here:

It looks like Tebow and Scherzer are starting to develop a pattern - last year’s matchup between the two went down the exact same way.

Tebow was able to redeem himself later in the game with his first hit of the year against Nats prospect Erick Fedde. He will likely begin the season with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he believes Tebow will eventually see some at-bats in the Majors.