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Strasburg finishes 2015 with strong start in win over Braves

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Strasburg finishes 2015 with strong start in win over Braves

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: There's nothing left to play for on the team level, so attention shifts to individual performance during the season's final week. And there has been no better individual performing better for the Nationals down the stretch than Stephen Strasburg.

Distancing himself even further from his disastrous first half of the season, Strasburg finished up 2015 on a decided high note, shutting out the Braves over six innings. He scattered six singles and a walk, struck out seven and left a very good taste in everyone's mouths as his roller coaster 2015 came to an end.

Clint Robinson got the Nationals on the board with an opposite-field homer in the top of the second. They then added two insurance runs in the eighth, with Bryce Harper notching his 97th RBI of the season. (Harper went 1-for-4 to maintain a .331 batting average, two points better than Miami's Dee Gordon, who went 0-for-4.)

Blake Treinen tossed a scoreless seventh, then Felipe Rivero tossed both the eighth and the ninth to notch his first career save and notch the Nationals' 81st win of the season.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: For a guy who was never expected to make the roster out of spring training, Robinson sure turned into a valuable piece for the Nationals. He began as a left-handed bat off the bench, but when Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth went down with injuries, the 30-year-old rookie wound up getting significant playing time. And he made the most of it. With his solo homer in the second inning, Robinson raised his batting average to .271 with a .361 on-base percentage and .410 slugging percentage. He's got nine homers and 33 RBI over 337 plate appearances. For a part-time player, that's not bad at all.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Boy, July feels like an awfully long time for Strasburg, doesn't it? Ten starts into his season, he was 3-5 with a 6.55 ERA and all sorts of questions from outside observers about the state of his career. Turns out Strasburg's problems were entirely physical, from an ankle injury in spring training to lingering neck issues to a strained oblique suffered on July 4. Over his final 13 starts, Strasburg went 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA and a staggering 110-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Put that all together, and he ends up 11-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 23 starts, with 155 strikeouts and only 26 walks. All things considered, that was a very good season for Strasburg. And a very encouraging sign for the Nationals heading into 2016.

KEY STAT: By beating out a potential inning-ending double play grounder in the eighth, Bryce Harper notched his 97th RBI, fifth-most in the NL.

UP NEXT: It had the potential to be a huge series to end the regular season. Instead, the Nationals and Mets will play out the string this weekend at Citi Field, beginning Friday at 7:10 p.m. Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.93) faces Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.34).

[RELATED: Where does Escobar fit in 2016 Nats' infield?]

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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