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Strasburg sharp in return from DL as Nats down Braves 3-1

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Strasburg sharp in return from DL as Nats down Braves 3-1

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Stephen Strasburg took the mound for the first time in 25 days, fresh off a DL stint that was as much about getting himself right mechanically as it was getting himself right physically, and quickly reminded everyone just how good he can be. Strasburg, after waiting out a 2-hour, 12-minute rain delay, tossed five scoreless innings, striking out six and generally looking like the guy who was among baseball's better starting pitchers over the previous five seasons.

Strasburg's teammates gave up some early run support, with Denard Span and Anthony Rendon teaming up for a first-inning run, Span driving in Michael Taylor with a third-inning RBI single and then Taylor driving in Danny Espinosa with a fourth-inning RBI base hit.

The rest was up to the Nationals' bullpen. Tanner Roark returned from the paternity leave list to a relief role and retired all six batters he faced. Matt Thornton gave up a solo homer to Cameron Maybin in the top of the eighth, but David Carpenter pitched out of a jam to get the ball to Drew Storen, who notched his 21st save in 22 tries after loading the bases with two outs in the ninth.

Thus the Nationals won their fourth straight. Combined with the Mets' 6-game losing streak, the Nats suddenly have opened up a 2 1/2-game lead in the NL East.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: You knew it was just a matter of time before Rendon found his groove. This might well have been the night it happened. The young second baseman went 4-for-4, with a pair of singles to left field and a pair of singles to right field. In the process, he raised his batting average from .230 to .277. We're still waiting for Rendon's power stroke to come around, but that, too, will happen in time. For now, rest assured that one of the most talented young hitters in baseball is starting to come around.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Could Strasburg have been better? Yeah, but really the only gripe would be his lack of efficiency. And that's a minor nitpick on an otherwise impressive night for the right-hander. He did exactly what the Nationals wanted him to do: Command his fastball down in the zone early in the count, then elevate it with two strikes. All six of his strikeouts came on high fastballs, most registering 97 mph. Strasburg's mechanics looked good. His demeanor was good. Everything about him was good in this game, an awfully encouraging development for the Nats.

KEY STAT: Nationals starting pitchers over the last four games have the following total line: 28.1 IP, 14H, 1 R, 4 BB, 31 K, 1 HBP.

UP NEXT: Jordan Zimmermann (5-5, 3.75) takes the mound Wednesday night, looking to keep the Nats' string of great starting pitching going. He'll face a tough task in Atlanta's Shelby Miller (5-3, 1.99).

MORE NATIONALS: Watch Harper react to news of breaking NL All-Star voting record

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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.

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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