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Nats Stock Watch: As usual, Harper leading the way


Nats Stock Watch: As usual, Harper leading the way

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 3-3

Team slash: .182/.270/.304

Team ERA: 2.64

Runs per game: 3


Bryce Harper, RF: .381 AVG/ 8 BB/ 1.218 OPS  

It's been quite an eventful week for the Nationals' superstar outfielder. He led the team in average and OPS (like he does most weeks), but as is usually the case with him, he did it in style. The 22-year-old broke out his patriotic bat on Independence Day and, naturally, hit a two-run home run in his very first at-bat that sent the sold out Nats Park crowd into a frenzy. A day later, it was announced that he would start in the All-Star Game as he (unsurprisingly) led the NL in fan voting. Harper's ascent to becoming one of the top faces in the sport has been fascinating to follow over the years, and now that he's just begun to realize his potential, you wonder if -- assuming good health -- we're beginning to see the start of an unforgettable career. 

Drew Storen, RP: 2 GP/ 0.00 ERA  

Speaking of the All-Star Game, Storen has a legitimate gripe about not being selected to go to Cincinnati next week. He's been about as good as any closer in the NL, so you really have to comb through the statistics to try and find discrepancies between he and the relievers who got selected by Bruce Bochy. The only thing you could think of is his ERA, which currently sits at 1.97. And as Mark Zuckerman pointed out earlier this week, Storen allowed a three-run homer in a blowout win over the Rays several weeks ago, ballooning his ERA from 1.11 to 2.16 at the time. If that wound up being the difference between getting an All-Star nod and staying home, then Storen probably has a good reason to be a little upset. 


Max Scherzer, SP: 0-2/ 4.85 ERA  

This is not a typo. And no, we can't believe it either. But Scherzer has proved he is indeed human over his last two starts, suffering a tough luck walk-off loss in Atlanta and following that up with an uncharacteristically bad outing Tuesday in a loss to the Reds. Of course, one bad week doesn't take away from the type of season the 30-year-old ace is having thus far for the Nats. But the numbers are the numbers, and over the last seven days he's had the highest ERA of any of the starters.

Ian Desmond, SS: .095 AVG/ .190 SLG/ 8 K 

The Nats have to hope that Desmond isn't reverting back to what he was during his prolonged slump. But at this point, it's hard to merely call it a "slump" and probably more appropriate to say that it's simply a down season thus far for the three-time Silver Slugger winner. Of the Nats with at least 110 at-bats, Desmond has the lowest average (.214), on-base percentage (.254), slugging percentage (.341) and leads the team in strikeouts with 97. That's about as alarming as it gets for a player who is hoping to cash in on a big contact next offseason.  

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?


Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.


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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine


Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.


He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.