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Troubling signs for Nationals during latest loss

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Troubling signs for Nationals during latest loss

The Nationals lost a close ballgame Friday night, giving up the winning run in the seventh inning.

Really, who could have seen that coming?

It's a broken record now, but one the Nationals can't shut off. They just keep going around and around in circles, making the same mistakes, losing in the same fashion every single night, their slim postseason hopes becoming slimmer every time.

Yes, their odds of making the playoffs, which actually were 25 percent at the start of the week, are now down to 1.4 percent following Friday night's games (per Fangraphs). That's because four consecutive losses — combined with five consecutive wins by the Mets — have turned a 4-game deficit in the NL East into an 8 1/2-game deficit. Yes, the Nats have lost 4 1/2 games in the standings in five days.

And those games were all lost in exactly the same manner: From a staff that gave up the decisive runs late. Nationals pitchers have surrendered 15 runs in the seventh inning or later over their last four games.

Friday night's 2-1 loss in Miami wasn't exactly the kind of meltdown we saw earlier in the week against New York, but there were troublesome signs nonetheless.

Casey Janssen entered in the bottom of the seventh of a tie game and proceeded to give up the winning run. The beleaguered right-hander immediately got into trouble when he fell behind 3-1 in the count to J.T. Realmuto, then left a fastball up in the zone and watched as the Marlins catcher lined it to left field for a double.

Next came a play that might as well show up on the cover of the Nationals' 2015 Video Yearbook: Janssen fielded Ichiro Suzuki's popped-up bunt, passed up a sure out at first base and threw late to third base, where Yunel Escobar didn't even bother to attempt to apply the tag. That put Realmuto in position to score on a subsequent sac fly, with Bryce Harper's throw to the plate way off-line.

At the plate, the Nationals squandered what few opportunities they had, going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They managed just one unearned run against six Marlins pitchers,

Low-scoring games can sometimes make a team look lifeless when it really wasn't. Sometimes, good pitching just does that to a club.

This, though, did appear to be a legitimately lifeless performance from the Nationals, not just at the plate but in the field as well. And that could be a disturbing sign for a team that mathematically remains in the race but realistically knows that ship sailed earlier in the week.

The Nationals still have 22 games to play. There are some potentially major decisions that could hinge on how they perform during these 22 games, none more significant than the fate of their manager.

If Friday night's showing in Miami was an indication of what's to come, these final weeks of a disappointing season could be especially difficult to watch.

RELATED: NATS DROP FOURTH IN A ROW

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

RELATED: 2018 SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.

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He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

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