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Nats need to keep Flores, Clippard fresh

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Nats need to keep Flores, Clippard fresh

BOSTON -- Some leftover thoughts from a big weekend for the Nationals at Fenway Park...

-- Jesus Flores is taking an absolute pounding behind the plate right now, but he's managing to keep himself together enough to keep starting behind the plate.

This weekend alone, Flores was done in by pitches in the dirt, curveballs that were supposed to be fastballs and foul tips, including one late during Sunday's game that caught him square on his right hand. He went down in a heap and stayed down for a while as head trainer Lee Kuntz and manager Davey Johnson emerged from the dugout to check on him.

Flores and Kuntz were initially worried he had broken a finger, but the sting began to wear off after a minute or two.

"Boy, he got it bad," Johnson said. "It was black and blue when I went out there, and miraculously he could stay in the game. You hate to, in that kind of game, change catchers. He knows the hitters. He knows what to call. It was a gutty move on his part to be able to stay in the game."

Flores has now started 18 of 25 games since Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and was lost for the season ... and that includes a three-day stretch in Miami when he wasn't available due to a minor hamstring strain.

Flores, who hasn't played this much since early in 2009 (before his career was derailed by a major shoulder injury), insists he can handle the workload. Johnson might want to consider giving him a few more days off along the way, though, to ensure his best catcher still has something left in the tank come September ... or beyond.

-- Speaking of guys getting a lot of work, Tyler Clippard on Sunday recorded his third save in as many days and appeared in his fifth game in six days. That's the first time this season the right-hander has pitched this much, but he insisted it was no big deal.

"I felt good," he said. "It's a little sore, but it's normal soreness. After I got through the month of April, I've been feeling really good. There was no problem today."

Clippard needed 25 pitches to get through a harrowing bottom of the ninth in which none of the four Red Sox batters he faced put the ball in play (he walked one and struck out three). That was easily the most pitches he's thrown since taking over closer duties three weeks ago, during which time he's gone 8-for-8 in save situations.

Will Johnson need to turn to someone else tonight in Toronto if the Nationals hold a slim lead in the ninth?

"Bullpen coach Jimmy Lett said we might have to put him in sneakers tomorrow," the manager said. "He threw the heck out of the ball. I'm going to wait until he comes to me."

-- Danny Espinosa's night-and-day batting splits only turned more dramatic over the weekend. Against Boston's left-handed pitchers, he went 4-for-6 with four doubles and two walks. Against Boston's right-handers, he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Espinosa is now hitting .381 with a .480 on-base percentage and 1.194 OPS against left-handers, among the best offensive numbers in baseball. Against right-handers, he's hitting .188 with a .268 on-base percentage and a .556 OPS, among the worst offensive numbers in baseball.

-- Your Bizarro World fact of the morning: If the playoffs began today, the NL East champion Nationals would face the NL Central champion Pirates in the NLDS.

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Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Wieters aren't the only important guys within the Nationals organization becoming free agents in 2019.

President of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo is also becoming a free agent when his contract expires on October 31st.

In the final year of his five-year contract, the 57-year old is set to make $2.5 million.

RELATED: HOWIE KENDRICK RETURNING TO NATIONALS

Since joining the organization, Rizzo has turned the team into a legit World Series contender. They've won four division titles in the last six years under his guidance, but have been unable to get over the NL Division series hump. And even though that's a glaring red mark on his resume, Rizzo knows the success he's brought to the organization. 

When you look at what we accomplished,’’ Mike Rizzo said in a recent interview, “it’s really unsung and underappreciated. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished here. I like it here. I love the city. I love the team I put together. I like being a GM in the NL East. And I want to stay here. I just think I deserve to be treated like some of the best GMs in the game are, too.

Rizzo is talking about GM's like Cubs' Theo Epstein and Yankees' Brian Cashman, who've received big paydays over the last year.

I know we haven’t won the World Series, but I get tired of hearing how we can’t win the big one, or we can’t get out of the first round. We haven’t had that many chances.

Does Rizzo deserve an extension? The Sports Junkies think he does, but with GM's like the ones above cashing out, they can also see him wanting to test the open market.

"Why wouldn't they?", said Jason Bishop, noting his track record.

"There's a sense he wants to test the market," said Eric Bickel. That's the vibe I'm getting from him."

Rizzo is a weekly guest on the Junkies and has said that the organization will figure it out. However, the 2018 season may be the last time for a long time the Nats have a real shot at making a run before they lose some of their stars to other teams. If Rizzo does take that into consideration and decides to go elsewhere, the Junkies don't see him having any issues finding employment.

"If there was a time to roll, it would be after this season when you get your last run with this group," said Eric Bickel. And then If they don't pay you what you think you deserve, he'll be snatched up in 22 seconds."

RELATED: BEST OF NATS' RACING PRESIDENT TRYOUTS

If they do decide to sign him to an extension, will it be a long, drawn-out ordeal? The Junkies disagree on that one. 

"He is too valuable, Jason Bishop said. He's too valuable. You gotta ink him to a deal sometime during the season."

Luckily for D.C. sports fans, long, drawn-out extension talks aren't foreign to them.

To see their full discussion, click the media player above. 

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

WASHINGTON  -- The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with outfielder Howie Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical.

Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday. USA Today was first to report the deal.

Kendrick, 34, hit .293 with seven home runs and RBIs in 52 games with Washington after he was acquired from Philadelphia. The versatile right-handed hitter got just three plate appearances off the bench in the playoffs.

In 12 major league seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Dodgers, Phillies and Nationals, Kendrick is a .291 hitter with a .755 OPS. He's now primarily an outfielder for Washington after playing left field, second base, first base and other positions throughout his career.