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Nats blow chances to salvage series in 13-inning loss to Cubs

Nats blow chances to salvage series in 13-inning loss to Cubs

The Nationals looked poised to salvage their four-game series against the league-leading Cubs in Chicago on Sunday afternoon, but the bullpen couldn't hold off the Cubs' bats, and Ryan Zimmerman set an MLB record for futility en route to a 4-3 loss in 13 innings.

How it happened: When reigning N.L. Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (ND, 6-0, 1.13 ERA) left the game in the fifth inning, the Nationals led 3-1 and were four innings away from handing him his first loss of the season. But a Kris Bryant single off reliever Oliver Perez in the seventh scored two runs tying the game at 3-3.

In the top of the 12th inning, Zimmerman strode to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. He would leave the batter's box with a ground out and stranded the final three of his MLB-record 14 batter's left on base. After getting pitcher Travis Wood (W, 1-0, 5.00 ERA) to strikeout in the bottom of the 13th inning, Blake Treinen (L, 2-1, 4.38 ERA) offered up a fastball to Javier Baez, who promptly put it in the Wrigley Field bleachers, ending the game and the series.

What it means: The Cubs are very good. The Nats' bullpen gave up multiple runs in all four games, but much of that can be attributed to the Cubs' potent offense. Ben Zobrist finished the series with six hits, three home runs, nine RBIs and five runs scored. After sweeping the Cardinals and winning the first game of their series against the Royals, the team returns home for an interleague series against the Tigers having lost five of their last six games.

Harper makes history: Bryce Harper continues to get the Barry Bonds treatment from pitchers, and on Sunday he did something even Binds never did: Harper was walked six times, and reached base on a hit-by-pitch. He became just the fourth player to be walked six times in one game and the first player in the live-ball era to reach base seven times in one game without a registered at-bat.

Healthy Murphy is good Murphy: A day after not being in the starting lineup due to an illness, Daniel Murphy continued his assault on baseballs. He was just one of three Nationals to record multiple hits on Sunday, and now has 45 hits in 115 at-bats.

Pitching needs improvement: Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer, two of the Nationals' top arms, were roughed up to the tune of 12 earned runs. On top of that, the bullpen could not stop the bleeding. The Cubs scored 10 of their 24 runs off relievers.

What's next: The Nats return to the nation's capital to begin their first itnterleague series against the Detroit Tigers (14-16). Stephen Strasburg (5-0, 2.36 ERA) takes to the mound on Monday, but the star attraction awaits on Wednesday, when Jordan Zimmermann (5-1, 1.10 ERA) returns to D.C. for the first time since leaving the team as a free agent. He will be opposed by former Tiger Scherzer.

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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

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

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