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Roark, bench bats help snap seven-game losing streak

Roark, bench bats help snap seven-game losing streak

Rejoice, Nationals fans. The streak is finally over.

After Sunday afternoon's 3-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Nats snapped their season-high seven-game losing streak and headed back to D.C. on a high note. The win, coupled with a loss by the New York Mets, gives Washington a three-game lead in the NL East ahead of this week's key series at Nats Park between the two division rivals. 

Now that the skid is over with, here are a few thoughts on Sunday's game and more: 

Roark saves the day: With Stephen Strasburg’s Sunday start scratched due to a back injury, it was up to Tanner Roark to play the role of stopper. And boy did he ever.

Pitching a day before he was scheduled to, Roark gave the Nats a clutch outing to help snap their losing skid. He threw seven shutout frames and struck out seven on 95 pitches, raising his record to 7-5 and lowering his ERA on the season 2.96.

For sure, he wasn't dominant the entire way — the Brewers scattered seven hits off him — but he did what so few Nats starters had done throughout this recent slide: he worked his way out of jams. When the Brewers had runners at the corners and two out in the fourth inning, he stuck out Kirk Nieuwenhuis to end the threat. Three innings innings later, with the tying run on third base, he retired Alex Presley and Jonathan Villar to keep the Nats' 1-0 lead in tact. Dusty Baker lamented on Saturday how starter Gio Gonzalez couldn't get the third out in big spots, but Roark came through in that area in spades in the series finale.  

And if it wasn’t obvious enough just how big Roark’s performance was, his teammates greeted him with jubilant high-fives in the dugout after he escaped his last inning on the afternoon unscathed. He may not be considered the staff ace, but on Sunday, he did what aces are called upon to do.  

Bench bats deliver again: On a day where most of the regulars in the lineup struggled at the plate, the decisive blows in this game came from a pair of bench players. Then again, the Nats’ reserves have come up big all season long, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise when it keeps happening.

In a scoreless tie in the seventh inning, Jose Lobaton put Washington out front with an opposite-field solo home run, and Clint Robinson followed that up in the eighth by launching a two-run shot to create a 3-0 cushion. And even though things got dicey in the ninth inning — the Brewers were a base hit away from tying the game — those runs would be just good enough to secure a 3-2 victory.  

Who replaces Strasburg? The big news that broke before Sunday's game was that Stephen Strasburg was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an upper back injury. And while Nats fans are rightfully concerned about how seriously injured the star pitcher might be, the team has to find an adequate replacement for him in the meantime.

Baker said after Sunday's game that the Nats will call up a minor league pitcher to start in Strasburg's absence on Tuesday night against the New York Mets. The question is — who that might be? Some fans are clamoring to get a glimpse of top prospect Lucas Giolito, but is this the time for him to make his major league debut? That's for the organization to decide. If Giolito isn't the choice, then keep an eye on is 24-year-old Austin Voth, who is 4-3 with a 2.99 ERA at Syracuse and appears to be better positioned to make a spot start. 

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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.

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Nats' Max Scherzer wins second straight NL Cy Young Award

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Nats' Max Scherzer wins second straight NL Cy Young Award

Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals has coasted to his third Cy Young Award and second straight in the National League.

Scherzer breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

The honor was announced Wednesday on MLB Network.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit. He became the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs.


Scherzer was 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA and a league-leading 268 strikeouts for the NL East champion Nationals.

Kershaw has already won three NL Cy Youngs, and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts.

Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians easily won his second AL Cy Young Award earlier in the day. He got 28 of the 30 first-place votes, with Boston's Chris Sale second and Luis Severino of the New York Yankees third.

Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball.