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Strasburg stumbles again, as Nats fall to Braves in series opener

Strasburg stumbles again, as Nats fall to Braves in series opener

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 8-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night at Nationals Park.

How it happened: If Freddie Freeman is in the lineup, you can throw out the records when the Nationals play the Braves.

Even if Atlanta is almost 30 games under .500 and the Nationals 20 games over, Freeman is going to do damage and there is apparently nothing the Nats or Stephen Strasburg can do to stop him.

Freeman continued his years-long domination of the Nats on Friday night with a homer, a double, a walk, two runs and four RBI. He hit a three-run moonshot to left field off Strasburg in the fifth inning to help hand the Nats' right-hander one of his worst starts of the season.

Anthony Recker and Jace Peterson also homered for the Braves. For the Nats, Anthony Rendon hit a two-run shot in the fourth inning. Trea Turner brought in their first run on a single in the third inning, one of his three hits on the night. He also had two steals, his ninth and 10th of the season. 

Daniel Murphy had two hits - including a double - a walk and two runs. Ben Revere walked and scored a run. Brian Goodwin got his first big league RBI on an infield single in the sixth. Jayson Werth landed an RBI double in the seventh inning to extend his streak of reaching base to 41 straight games. He's now just two away from tying Ryan Zimmerman's team record.

Strasburg made it only 5 1/3 innings and was charged with six earned runs, tying a season-high. Reliever Matt Belisle gave up the two-run homer to Recker and one of the runs was charged to Strasburg. Oliver Perez then allowed another run in the seventh on a Jace Peterson sacrifice fly.

The Nats had their moments on offense, and got four runs off Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz. But it wasn't enough to offset the struggles of their own pitching staff.

The Braves beat the Nats in Washington for the first time since Sept. 10, 2014. The Nats had won 14 straight at Nationals Park, tied for the longest home unbeaten streak against one opponent in franchise history.

What it means: The Nats lost their first game against the Braves of 2016 after beginning the head-to-head series at 6-0. Washington has dropped three of their last five overall and now sit 67-47 on the year. 

Strasburg stumbles again: The results just haven't been there for Strasburg lately. On Friday, he gave up six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings on seven hits - including two homers - and two walks. It matched the second-shortest outing of Strasburg's season, second only to his last start when he went 4 2/3 frames against the Giants. Strasburg gave up four earned in that start and has now allowed 17 earned runs in his last five starts across 29 innings.

Strasburg has surrendered at least four earned runs in three of his last five starts. He did that only three times in his first 17 starts this season. In these last five games, Strasburg has seen his season ERA jump from 2.51 to 3.07.

Strasburg did, though, pass Javier Vazquez for second place on the Nats/Expos franchise list in strikeouts. He's at 1,077 after Friday night.

Rendon on fire: Rendon's two-run bomb in the bottom of the fourth - his 14th of the season - continued what has been a torrid stretch for the Nats' third baseman. Rendon is now 26-for-77 (.338) with five homers, 17 RBI, nine doubles, 11 runs and eight walks in his last 21 games. As noted in this space before, this is arguably the best Rendon has looked since 2014 when he won a Silver Slugger and finished fifth in NL MVP voting.

Lately, Rendon has been one of the Nats' best hitters, and it's coming at a good time with Bryce Harper, Zimmerman and Stephen Drew all out with injuries. Drew's absence has forced Rendon to play more often than manager Dusty Baker would prefere, but it's not slowing him down.

Freeman is freakin' good: Doesn't this guy have any mercy? The Braves first baseman again crushed the Nats and again had his way with Strasburg. Against the Nationals, Freeman is now hitting .327 with 11 homers, 49 RBI and 26 doubles in 92 games. Against Strasburg, Freeman is now 14-for-34 (.412) with four homers and 13 RBI. He has Strasburg and just about every other Nats' pitchers' number and on Friday he made the difference in the Braves' win.

Up next: The Nats and Braves continue their series with another 7:05 p.m. start. Nationals rookie Reynaldo Lopez (0-1, 9.35) will pitch opposite right-hander Rob Whalen (1-0, 5.73).

[RELATED: Nats GM Rizzo strongly denies report on Harper's injury]

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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