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Nats walk off Pirates to begin final regular season series

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USA TODAY Sports

Nats walk off Pirates to begin final regular season series

WASHINGTON  -- The NL East champion Washington Nationals began their last -- and meaningless -- series of the regular season without a sore Bryce Harper and with a blown save by closer Sean Doolittle in what became a 5-4 victory Thursday night over the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose starting pitcher, Ivan Nova, left after getting hit by a pitch on his throwing hand while batting.

Howie Kendrick, a possible starter instead of Jayson Werth in left field when Washington opens its NL Division Series against the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs on Oct. 6, was taken out in the third inning after diving to try to catch a sinking liner. The Nationals did not immediately announce whether Kendrick was injured.

Doolittle was 21 for 21 in save opportunities for the Nationals since arriving from the Oakland Athletics in a trade in July, but he blew chance No. 22 with all of two pitches. The lefty came on for the ninth with a 4-2 lead but promptly allowed a leadoff single to Andrew McCutchen on his first pitch, then Josh Bell's 26th homer on his next.

But Washington won it in the bottom of the ninth on Alejandro De Aza's run-scoring single off Daniel Hudson (2-7). That made a winner of Doolittle (1-0).

De Aza entered as a pinch hitter in the third to replace Kendrick, who came up just short of a grab on a headfirst dive in the top of that inning. De Aza also delivered an RBI triple in the seventh.

Harper returned from the disabled list this week after missing 42 games because of a hyperextended left knee. He played Tuesday and Wednesday, then sat out Thursday because he felt "a little sore." Manager Dusty Baker said it was nothing to be "alarmed" about.

With nothing at stake for his team -- or the long-ago-eliminated Pirates, for that matter -- Baker gave other regulars a day off, including first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, shortstop Trea Turner and catcher Matt Wieters.

In the third, Nova was plunked on his right hand while squaring up to bunt against Edwin Jackson. The Pirates wound up taking a 2-1 lead in that inning on RBI hits by Christopher Bostick and Starling Marte. It was on Marte's shot to left that Kendrick made his dive.

While Washington is locked into the NL's second seed, the Pirates are guaranteed of finishing with a losing record. And there's no mystery about any major offseason change of direction for Pittsburgh, because manager Clint Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington both signed four-year contract extensions in early September.

FOR STARTERS

Nova's season ended with him in the batter's box, instead of on the pitcher's mound. His stats from his last start of 2017: two innings, one run, four hits, two strikeouts, one walk, one wild pitch. He went 11-14 this season. ... Jackson allowed two runs in six innings. He was 5-6 for Washington and is not expected to be in the postseason rotation.

NOT SO FAST

Nationals RF Victor Robles, a 20-year-old rookie, appeared to have collected the first stolen base of his career in the fifth inning. But the Pirates asked for a review of the play, and Robles was ruled out because he briefly came off the bag at second.

MINOR NEWS

OF Daniel Johnson is Washington's minor league player of the year; RHP Wander Suero earned minor league pitcher of the year honors.

UP NEXT

Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg (14-4, 2.68 ERA) makes his last pre-playoffs tuneup start, facing Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole (12-11, 4.23 ERA).

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Max Scherzer Giving Away Memorabilia For Good Cause

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Max Scherzer Giving Away Memorabilia For Good Cause

By Ryan Wormeli

Max Scherzer is the ace of the Nationals staff, a fan favorite, and the 2017 National League Cy Young award winner. He's also a soon-to-be father whose wife, Erica May-Scherzer, once accidentally threw out the jersey he wore when throwing his 2nd career no-hitter. This time around, I'm guessing they talked it over first before deciding to sell some of his memorabilia garage-style for a new fundraiser.

We don't have any more information about the fundraiser yet, but May-Scherzer posted some photos on Twitter this afternoon. 

And in case you're wondering, no, the Scherzer family cat featured in one of the pictures isn't for sale (we assume). Plus, even if they were willing to part with their cat, considering Scherzer is on a contract worth over $200 Million, their price would probably be pretty steep. How much would you pay to adopt the cat of a 3-time Cy Young winner?

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Why Bryce Harper would be a bargain at $500 million

Why Bryce Harper would be a bargain at $500 million

$500 million.

That number is so hard to wrap your brain around, but it's a number a lot of professional baseball players may soon start seeing on their contracts.

One player who could be the first to see that amount within the next year is Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper.

Harper will become a free agent in 2018 and people are already projecting his market value at close to $500 million, if not more.

Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton signed a contract back in 2014 for 13 years, $325 million, holding the league record.

For Fancy Stats writer Neil Greenberg, $500 million is a bargain for someone of Harper's caliber.

"Harper is every bit as good [as Stanton] but he's also young," Greenberg told the Sports Junkies Friday.

"I mean, we don't see a player that's as good as Harper, that's as young a Harper, hit the market almost ever I want to say. You look at how many years of his prime he has left and then even if you start to give him just the typical aging curb off of that prime, he's probably worth close to 570 million dollars starting from 2019 and going forward ten years. And that includes also the price of free agency going up and other factors."

Harper, who is only 25 years-old, brings more to a team than just talent. He's one of the most recognizable figures in baseball, bringing tremendous marketing opportunities to an organization. Greenberg dove deeper into how that will increase his market value.

"And that's just for the on-the-field product. You talk about all the marketing that's done around Bryce Harper [and] what he does for the game. In my opinion, and based on the numbers that I saw, he's a bargain at $500 million."

Don't we all wish someone would say $500 million is a bargain for us?

After crunching the numbers, the biggest takeaway for Greenberg is the return on investment the Nationals have gotten out of Harper.

"Like if you look at his wins above replacement throughout his career, he's given you 200 million dollars in value for 21 million dollars in cash and he's due what another 26 or 27 million this year. I mean he's already given you an amazing return on investment."

"So, if you're the Nationals having - benefited from that - you know you have a little bit of, I guess, wiggle room in terms of maybe you're paying a little bit for past performance 'cause, you know, when a player is on arbitration in their early years they don't really get paid that much."

The Nationals still have Harper for one more season and many feel they need to make him an offer sooner than later. Whenever and whoever he gets an offer from, it's going to be a nice pay day for him.