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Nats ride strong pitching to shutout win

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Nats ride strong pitching to shutout win

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: With the series hanging in the balance and every game carrying more weight as the calendar approaches August and the Mets looming in the rear view mirror, the Nationals very much needed Thursday's matinee at Marlins Park. So they turned to their ace, their longtime slugger, their former closer and their new closer to pull off a 1-0 victory.

Ryan Zimmerman provided all of the offense, launching a leadoff homer in the top of the second off old pal Dan Haren. The Nationals did nothing else of real consequence at the plate, but they didn't need it because Scherzer was in top form. The right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings, battling out of a couple of jams to maintain that 1-0 lead before handing it over to his bullpen.

And that new-look bullpen was perfect. Drew Storen retired the side in the eighth, striking out two, just as he did Wednesday night. And Jonathan Papelbon made his Nationals debut by retiring the side in the ninth, striking out Michael Morse (who had reportedly already been traded to the Dodgers) to end it in style and allow the Nats to maintain at least a 2-game lead over the Mets heading into a huge series this weekend.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: There was some concern when the Nationals activated Zimmerman off the disabled list Tuesday despite his 1-for-10 performance while on rehab with Class AA Harrisburg. Maybe the veteran slugger needed more time to get his swing down. But you have to be careful putting much stock in rehab assignment stats. It's more important what kind of at-bats a player produces, and by all accounts Zimmerman looked good while in the minors. There's no debating how good he has looked since rejoining the Nationals. Headlined by his homer in the top of the second — his first since May 19 — Zimmerman went 4-for-11 with three extra-base hits this series. 

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: He may have gone only seven innings, but these were some high-stress innings for Scherzer, with no margin for error given the 1-0 lead his teammates gave him. And as he has done so many times this year, the right-hander delivered. He induced a huge double play out of Christian Yelich to end the sixth. Then he blew away Adeiny Hechavarria on a 95-mph to end the seventh. Based on the way his jersey looked completely soaked by the end of his afternoon, it's probably safe to say Scherzer worked hard for this one.

KEY STAT: Though he is averaging more innings per start (7.14 vs. 6.68), Scherzer actually is averaging fewer pitches per outing (102 vs. 110) this season than he threw last season.

UP NEXT: Though Friday's 4 p.m. trade deadline will dominate most of the discourse around baseball, the Nationals have a pretty important ballgame to play as well. They head to New York to open a huge weekend series with the Mets, with first place in the NL East at stake. It'll be Gio Gonzalez (8-4, 3.83) against Matt Harvey (9-7, 3.16) at 7:10 p.m. EDT.

RELATED: Papelbon aiming for saves record, hopes to co-exist with Storen

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

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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