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Nats' offense continues to surge in blowout win against Pirates

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Nats' offense continues to surge in blowout win against Pirates

The Nationals' pitching staff just capped it's best run in team history with 24 consecutive scoreless innings, a weekend highlighted by Max Scherzer's no-hitter on Saturday against the Pirates.

The pitchers deserve their credit, no doubt. But the Nationals' lineup hasn't exactly been dragging their feet.

In Sunday's win, the Nationals scored nine runs in the first inning alone. That gives them 63 runs in their last 10 games compared to 56 in their previous 20.

Nine runs was the best first inning in team history and tied for the best frame a Nationals team has ever had. They last scored nine runs in one inning on May 31 of 2010.

"It's fun to be apart of," Clint Robinson said. "Sometimes, you know, hitting is contagious, I've said all along. So when guys string together hits like that, it can create a snowball effect, and it did. It made it easy for us to get ahead and go out and get that win."

Robinson had a double in the first inning and scored on a single by Jose Lobaton. Their other eight runs came on homers by Bryce Harper (2 RBI) and Yunel Escobar (3 RBI), a double by pitcher Gio Gonzalez, a single by Michael Taylor and a wild pitch by Pirates starter Charlie Morton that scored Ian Desmond.

The Nationals have now scored nine runs or more 10 times this season in 70 games. They scored nine or more 13 times all of last season. The Nats now rank fourth in runs this season compared to ninth last year. As streaky as they have been at times, the total numbers stack up favorably with the rest of MLB.

Harper knows that, and thinks even when the lineup has gone cold, it hasn't been as bad as many have made it out to be.

"Everybody says we're struggling, but I don't think as a team that we're struggling. We're doing pretty dang good," he said. "We just played great ball and had some great pitching this weekend. If we can do that, we'd win 162 games. We'll go through times where we've had ups and downs in this game where the ball just didn't fall our way. But we had a great weekend, hopefully we can take this into next week and stay in first place."

Harper's parents were in town for Father's Day and attended Sunday's game. His father, Ron, has been a big influence in his life and career and Bryce said it was special to deliver with his 24th homer of the season.

"It was awesome, being able to do that in the first at-bat. Him being able to come out and enjoy that. Very cool moment. It was a good opportunity to get us on the board. Very happy we got that W and got that sweep," he said.

Gonzalez followed Scherzer's no-hitter with seven scoreless innings in addition to his double. Scherzer also had a hit on Saturday, but it was a single, and Gonzalez was quick to point that out.

"I was just tired of Maxi trying to be number one hitting. I finally bumped up somewhere in that ranking of pitchers than can hit," he said. "Max is not going to beat me on a base hit. I’m going to go up there and try and get a double.”

The Nationals are off Monday before the Atlanta Braves come to town for a three-game series. The Braves have had plenty of problems with their pitching staff this season and could offer a good opportunity for the Nats' offense to keep on rolling.

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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