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Span and Rendon set tone in win vs. Braves, just like 2014

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Span and Rendon set tone in win vs. Braves, just like 2014

For much of the 2014 season, while injuries took their toll on the rest of the Nationals lineup, it was the combination of Denard Span and Anthony Rendon that led the way. Both players earned NL MVP votes as arguably the best one-two punch at the top of the order in baseball. Span led the league in hits, Rendon led the league in runs.

But in 2015, that has so far not been the case. Span has been in the lineup after missing the first two weeks of the season and has mostly been himself. He is hitting over .300, leading the team in stolen bases and setting the table as an elite leadoff hitter.

Rendon, on the other hand, has not been the guy we saw in 2014. He missed the first third of the season and before Tuesday was hitting just .230/.333/.311, far below his .287/.351/.473 Silver Slugger slash of last year.

Tuesday, though, may have given the Nationals their first reminder this season of what they are capable of as a duo. Span went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run. Rendon had easily his best game of 2015 and went 4-for-4 with an RBI.

After the Nats' 3-1 win over the Braves, some couldn't help but make the year-to-year comparison, even Span himself.

"I think it just sets the tone," he said. "It sets the whole offense in motion, especially if I get on base and he comes behind me. He usually gives me a pitch or two to try and get on second base. And if not, if I don't steal, he's very capable of hitting a homer or hitting a double. It's just something that sets the tone for the whole team and the whole game when we do our jobs."

"They both have a good sense of the strike zone when they're standing at the plate, so they walk a lot which sets up our 3-4-5 guys," manager Matt Williams said. "That was the measure of our success offensively last year. We hope that that's going to continue to be the measure of our success. Those two guys at the top of the lineup are important for us."

Span and Rendon made an impact immediately on Tuesday night against Braves starter Alex Wood. Span led off the first inning with a double off the wall in center field over the head of Cameron Maybin. Rendon then poked a single down the right-field line to score Span and put the Nats up a run before Atlanta even recorded their first out.

That small detail, taking a pitch outside and sending it the other way, was particularly impressive according to Williams.

"Te first one down the line, just trying to get Denard over. He hit a ball down the line to drive in a run," Williams explained. "To move a baseball, like Anthony did tonight. Denard leads off with a double and he just moves the baseball the other way. It just sets up innings for us."

Those are the types of plays that the Nationals have come to expect from Rendon. His average rose to .277 on Tuesday, much closer to his career mark, but it's the finer things that stand out to his coaches and teammates.

"He's looking Tony-esque," Tanner Roark said. "That basehit, his first basehit down the line, you could just tell he is taking balls where he's being pitched at. He looked good."

"It's getting there," Williams said. "For Anthony, if he's hitting the ball on a line the other way, then you know his swing is right. In recent days he's hit some groundballs to short. If he's doing that, then you know he's not quite right on his timing."

Span was already in regular form, but now that Rendon is coming around the potential of the Nationals' lineup was on full display Tuesday night. If they are setting the table, guys like Bryce Harper - who went 0-for-4 in the game - don't have to carry the load like they have for much of this season.

"It's not easy [to pitch against]. Denard is playing really well and Tony's back in the lineup feeling good and feeling healthy," Roark said. "One through nine, one through eight, whatever. We've got a great lineup and we're all confident. It's pretty tough to face us."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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