Nationals

Quick Links

Rough third inning hurts Cole as Nats fall to Phillies

Rough third inning hurts Cole as Nats fall to Phillies

Postgame analysis of the Nats 4-1 loss over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night at Nationals Park.

How it happened: The Nationals’ season-long mastery of the Phillies was not on display Thursday night, as their franchise-best nine-game winning streak against the NL East rivals was finally snapped.

And they can thank a 24-year-old right hander making his 2016 debut for giving them so much trouble. Alec Asher, making his first start of the season, frustrated the Nats offense while pitching six scoreless frames. He wasn’t in dominant form — he didn’t record a strikeout — but he only allowed two hits on the night.

Washington’s best chance to rally came two frames after Asher exited the game. The Nats had the bases loaded in the eighth for Daniel Murphy, who settled for a sacrifice fly after narrowly missing the game-tying grand slam. Bryce Harper subsequently struck out to end the threat.

Meanwhile, one rough inning doomed A.J. Cole on this night. He yielded four runs on a pair of home runs in the third. The bullpen kept the Phillies’ offense in check the rest of the way, but the damage was already done.  

What it means: The Nats’ record falls to 82-58, dropping their division lead over the New York Mets to eight games. The magic number to clinch the NL East remains at 15.  

Third inning stains Cole’s night: Don’t let the final pitching line fool you; Cole pitched much better game than the four runs over five frames would suggest. The problem? All those runs came in the third inning, which doomed the 24-year-old right hander in this outing. The solo homer from Peter Bourjos and three-run shot from Ryan Howard proved to be the big blows of the game, but Cole nonetheless acquitted himself relatively well. Including those knocks, he allowed five hits total while tallying eight strikeouts and walking none. He may not be dominating in his opportunity as a member of the starting rotation, but he’s doing enough to get more chances.

Asher shuts Nats down: How is it that Asher — making his first start of the year — handled the Nats over six shutout innings? For one, as Dusty Baker has mentioned recently, September baseball means facing off against more young pitchers you haven’t seen before, so it usually takes several turns through the order to get a feel for his arsenal. And while Asher pitched well, there were moments where it seemed like Nats offense suffered from plain old tough luck. They made solid contact off the him all night long, but had nothing to show for it. Washington totaled six line outs during the game, averaged 92.6 mph exit velocity through the first six innings. Sometimes, it’s just not your night.   

Up next: The Nats will look to bounce back as they send Tanner Roark (14-8, 2.89 ERA) to the mound on Friday night to face Phillies right hander Jake Thompson (1-5, 6.48 ERA).

Quick Links

Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

Its 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

Quick Links

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

usatsi_9977852.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm