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Scherzer's struggles continue in Nationals' 4-3 loss to Marlins

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Scherzer's struggles continue in Nationals' 4-3 loss to Marlins

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Max Scherzer taking the mound used to be a sure thing for the Nationals. These days, it's anything but.

Scherzer's August struggles continued when the right-hander served up a pair of early homers to the Marlins, putting his team in a hole. He did bounce back to finish his night on a high note, retiring 12 straight, but the Nationals were left trying to rally and get their wayward ace off the hook.

The Nats did chip away at Miami rookie Adam Conley, getting solo homers from Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos and then a sacrifice fly from Ryan Zimmerman. But they couldn't push across the tying run against the Marlins bullpen, and so they were left stewing over a frustrating loss in the opener of a series they desperately need to take.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: The Nats had the makings of a big rally in the bottom of the seventh, when they loaded the bases with nobody out and knocked Conley out of the game. Rookie right-hander Kyle Barraclough entered to face Zimmerman, who just got under a pitch and sent a fly ball to deep center field, a sac fly that brought home one run and trimmed the deficit to 4-3. That's where the deficit stayed, because Barraclough struck out Desmond on a breaking ball down and away, then after walking Danny Espinosa to load the bases again managed to deflect Ramos' smoked comebacker right to teammate Dee Gordon, who tossed to first to end the inning.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Scherzer hasn't been himself lately, we know that. We don't know why, however. Did he burn out throwing so many innings earlier this summer? Is it just bad mechanics? Whatever the case, he has been giving up way more hard-hit balls recently than he did during the season's first half, especially home runs. He gave up two more tonight, making it seven homers allowed in his last four starts alone. To his credit, Scherzer buckled down after that, eschewing his fastball for more offspeed stuff. He wound up retiring the last 12 batters he faced, at least keeping the Nationals in the game. Still, four runs in seven innings is not what this team is looking for from its ace right now.

KEY STAT: After committing 21 errors in his first 84 games this season, Desmond has been charged with only two in his last 38 games.

UP NEXT: Jordan Zimmermann (10-8, 3.54) takes the mound for the second game of the series, at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. It'll be right-hander Tom Koehler (8-12, 3.98) for the Marlins.

MORE NATIONALS: Hip surgery for Span, but Taylor's knee OK

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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

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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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