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Stanton homers, Fernandez dominates as Nats fall to Marlins 1-0

Stanton homers, Fernandez dominates as Nats fall to Marlins 1-0

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 1-0 loss to the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

How it happened: Little separates the very good pitchers from the absolute best of the best, especially these days when sub-3.00 ERAs are commonplace, when guys like Tanner Roark can hold a 2.70 ERA in late September and still be a relative longshot in the Cy Young race. 

Roark is very, very good. One could argue he's been the most indispensable pitcher on the Nationals' staff this year. But better pitchers exist and one of the few was on display Tuesday night at Marlins Park in a classic duel decided by one sole swing of the bat.

Jose Fernandez and Roark locked horns in one of the best pitching matchups of the 2016 season and each brought all they can offer to the mound. It was Fernandez who came out on top with eight shutout innings. That barely edged Roark's seven frames with one run allowed, but it was enough to give the Marlins a 1-0 victory.

Roark's lone mistake was a solo homer allowed to Giancarlo Stanton in the bottom of the sixth. Stanton took a 93 mile per hour two-seam fastball - Roark's bread-and-butter pitch - and sent it over the fence in right field for an opposite field bomb. It was Stanton's second homer in as many nights against the Nationals.

Roark, like Fernandez, only allowed three hits. He was pulled after 86 pitches, but did reach seven innings and passed the 200-innings pitched mark for the first time in his career.

They both allowed three hits, but Fernandez issued zero walks to go along with 12 strikeouts. Roark had three walks and five Ks.

The Nats fell to 7-8 in their season series vs. the Marlins. They have lost four straight games overall and five of their last seven. 

What it means: The Nats dropped to 88-63 on the year and saw their magic number to win the division remain at five.

Harper keeps struggling: There was a lot of talk earlier in the day about Bryce Harper's health, as Sports Illustrated added some details to their August report that he has a right shoulder injury, a story the Nats strongly denied at the time. The team insisted to reporters in Miami that Harper is fine, but he didn't exactly do anything on Tuesday to prove them right. Harper flew out three times in his first three at-bats, then struck out looking against Marlins reliever David Phelps for the second out of the top of the ninth. He is now just 1-for-23 in his last nine games.

Drew doubles: The Nats got just one hit off Fernandez through the first 7 1/3 innings on Tuesday night and that was a double by Stephen Drew. It was Drew's first extra-base hit since coming back from his vertigo-like symptoms earlier this month. He had previous played in nine games with three singles and two walks in 12 plate appearances. Before he went down, he could be counted on for power off the bench. If that is starting to come back, it's a great sign for the Nats.

Ramos is showing life: Ramos began the month of September just 4-for-28 in his first eight games. But in his seven outings since, the Nats catcher has turned a corner. With his single on Tuesday, Ramos is now 8-for-23 (.348) since Sept. 12. It's a small sample size, but it's a marked improvement from where he was just over a week ago. 

Up next: The Nats and Marlins close their series with a 7:10 p.m. start on Wednesday night. Ace Max Scherzer (17-7, 2.78) will try to be the Nats' stopper with right-hander Tom Koehler (9-11, 3.96) set to pitch for Miami.

[RELATED: SI adds more details to report of Bryce Harper's injury that Nats denied last month]

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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