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Roark outduels Bumgarner as Nats take season series vs. Giants

Roark outduels Bumgarner as Nats take season series vs. Giants

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 1-0 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.

How it happened: Remember when the Nationals made Tanner Roark into a reliever?

That seemed like a curious decision at the time, and with every passing start of his, it looks more and more like a headscratcher.

As a starter this year, Roark hasn't just been good. He's been great. And that continued on Sunday when he outdueled Cy Young candidate Madison Bumgarner to the tune of seven shutout innings. Roark reached the 150-innings mark for the season and walked off the mound with a 2.88 ERA. 

That's remarkable and just the continuation of a years-long trend. As a starter, Roark now holds a 3.09 ERA across 71 career starts. For a comparison, Stephen Strasburg's is 3.05 and Max Scherzer's is 3.40. The sample sizes are larger for the latter two, but still.

Roark set the tone on defense, and it was Wilson Ramos who came through at the plate. The Buffalo smoked his 18th homer of the season to opposite field in the bottom of the seventh to break a scoreless tie. That was Bumgarner's lone blemish in an otherwise dominant performance for the Giants lefty.

Ramos' homer was one of just two hits for the Nats, a team-record for fewest hits in a victory, but it was all they needed on his particular day. Shawn Kelley tossed a perfect eighth inning and Mark Melancon closed the door in the ninth in his first save situation since joining the Nats at the deadline. It was his 31st save in 34 chances overall this season.

The Nationals beat the Giants 1-0 and have now won five of their last six games.

What it means: The Nats moved to 66-45 on the year and won their season series against the Giants 4-3. That could come in handy later if these teams meet in the playoffs with identical regular season marks. The Nats would get home field advantage because of the tiebreaker.

Roark keeps rolling: Roark has now tossed seven or more shutout innings in seven starts this season, more than any other MLB pitcher. He's gone at least seven innings in 10 of his last 14 starts. In this one, Roark scattered five hits and three walks, and struck out three across 105 total pitches.

Roark worked his way out of several jams along the way. He struck out Brandon Belt with runners on the corners to end the top of the third. He got out of fourth on a Gregor Blanco groundout, again with runners on the corners. He got Buster Posey to flyout to left field to end the fifth with two men on. And he got Belt to fly out to end the seventh with two men in scoring position.

Roark also had some tremendous help from his defense. The Belt flyout in the seventh was thanks to an over-the-shoulder catch by Ben Revere at the center field wall. He did his best Willie Mays impression - against Mays' former team - and saved two runs along the way. Trea Turner made a nice tag and throw for an inning-ending double play in the sixth. And Anthony Rendon caught a ball deep in foul territory to end second while avoiding contact with Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa, who also converged on the play.

Ramos hits No. 18: Ramos hit his third homer in his last four games and now has 10 hits and eight RBI in his last five outings. The All-Star also walked on Sunday and is batting a clean .338 on the season. Things could get interesting between him and Daniel Murphy for the NL batting title, as Murphy went hitless for the second straight game and is now batting .350 on the year. Ramos has raised his average by 11 points during his five-game surge.

Harper sits with injury: The Nats were without Bryce Harper on Sunday, as the reigning MVP sat out with neck stiffness. The Nats have an upcoming off-day, which should be good for him. We'll see if he's in the lineup on Tuesday. Chris Heisey played in his place on Sunday and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

Up next: The Nationals host the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday for a two-game interleague series. Max Scherzer (12-6, 2.87) will get the start opposite former third overall pick Trevor Bauer (7-5, 4.08).

[RELATED: Nats' Ross explains setback, hopes to throw soon]

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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