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Stephen Strasburg ends club-record scoreless streak, still gets win over Dodgers

Stephen Strasburg ends club-record scoreless streak, still gets win over Dodgers

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals qualified for the playoffs in three of the previous five years, yet injuries have limited Stephen Strasburg to just one postseason start in that span. Left largely without the All-Star right-hander, Washington lost the opening series each time.

If Strasburg keeps up his current level, postseason failures may become a thing of the past.

Strasburg ended his club-record scoreless streak at 35 innings, but two home runs from Ryan Zimmerman helped the NL Cy Young Award contender win his fourth consecutive start as Washington beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-1 on Sunday night.

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Strasburg (14-4) allowed a run in the second inning on Logan Forsythe's double, the first against him since Aug. 19. He struck out eight and combined with three relievers to toss a five-hitter.

"Stras' was awesome," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.

The Nationals avoided a three-game sweep against the NL front-runners. Their slumbering offense came alive on Zimmerman's three-run shot in the sixth off reliever Ross Stripling (3-5), and Zimmerman and pinch-hitter Adam Lind homered in the eighth.

Los Angeles had lost 11 in a row and 16 of 17 before ripping off four consecutive wins, including the first two games this series. The Dodgers magic number to clinch the NL West dropped to four when second-place Arizona lost at San Francisco.

They dropped the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS in Washington last October with Strasburg sidelined after partially tearing the pronator tendon in his throwing arm.

"He pitched well. He competed," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Strasburg. "Really couldn't create much stress towards him or on him."

The Dodgers ended the series six games ahead of Washington in the race to secure home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

"Two very good ballclubs. Very similar, very balanced," Roberts continued. "I know they have the same respect for us as we do them."

MORE NATS:  BRYCE HARPER SHOWS OFF NEW HAIRSTYLE

The Nationals would likely concede home-field if it means having Strasburg, whose only postseason start came in 2014.

Strasburg had two outs in the second before the streak ended. With Yasiel Puig on third base, Forsythe hit a drive deep to left-center field. Michael Taylor raced into the gap, caught up with the flight path and put his glove on the ball, but couldn't catch it. Puig easily scored for a 1-0 lead.

During the streak, Strasburg allowed 19 hits, walked five and had 42 strikeouts.

"It was going to happen eventually," Strasburg said of the streak ending. "So, just tried to minimize the damage."

Anthony Rendon hit an RBI double in the seventh for Washington, which had lost four of five.

Zimmerman's solo homer in the eighth matched his career high of 33 long balls.

Following a walk and single against Stripling, Zimmerman powered a drive deep to center field for a 3-1 lead.

"I challenged Zimmerman with a slider and it ended up being up-middle and, obviously, he got a hold of it," Stripling said.

Washington scored only two earned runs over the first 23 innings of the series before Zimmerman's first homer.

"We were getting shutout. Having trouble scoring runs. That was a big home run," Baker said.

Los Angeles starter Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings but was removed after walking back-to-back batters with two outs in the fifth.

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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.

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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.

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