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Under pressure, Rodriguez keeps cool

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Under pressure, Rodriguez keeps cool

PITTSBURGH -- For all the good that took place from the Nationals' perspective last night at PNC Park, from Stephen Strasburg's 13 strikeouts to Roger Bernadina and Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel's home runs, there was a moment that had to leave everyone wondering whether disaster was about to strike.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Henry Rodriguez fired a 2-2 fastball to the Neil Walker on the inside corner and the got the Pirates second baseman to whiff at the 98 mph heater.

Except the ball got past catcher Jesus Flores, so Walker took off for first base. And though it appeared Adam LaRoche made a juggling catch of Flores' one-hopper a nanosecond before Walker's foot hit the bag, umpire Greg Gibson ruled him safe.

All of a sudden, the Pirates had the tying run at the plate, and the Nationals couldn't help but wonder whether they were about to see history repeat itself.

"We strike a guy out, and the guy gets on," manager Davey Johnson said. "I'm saying: 'Oh, my goodness, here we go again.'"

The Nationals had seen Rodriguez do this only two nights earlier, blowing a ninth-inning lead in spectacular fashion with two wild pitches and a walk-off homer in the span of about 90 seconds. But if everyone inside the visiting dugout was nervous, the man on the mound insists he wasn't.

"It's just part of the game," Flores said, interpreting for Rodriguez. "He was focused to face the other guy and make good pitches."

Rodriguez rebounded to close out the game. He got Garrett Jones to fly out to right field. Then he got Casey McGehee to ground out to second.

Game over. A 4-2 win in the books. And Rodriguez's seventh save in nine tries secured.

"That was a good confidence boost," LaRoche said. "He needed that. He's one of those guys, I don't think he shows a whole lot of emotion. But you can tell when you sit and talk with him, he wants to win as bad as anybody. He wants the ball in the ninth. He wants to be the guy to save games for us. And I think part of it is trying too hard. So if he can settle down and throw 99 instead of 103, we're all fine with that."

Actually, Rodriguez didn't throw any of his 12 fastballs last night more than 98 mph. That's still plenty hard, but it is a tick or two below his usual radar gun readings.

Most importantly, the 25-year-old flamethrower emerged feeling better about himself. For that, he wanted to thank his manager, who stuck with him in the wake of Tuesday night's debacle.

"He appreciates the confidence from the manager," Flores said, again interpreting for Rodriguez. "He wants to do it well. He wants to win the game. And it was a good thing that we did it tonight."

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Max Scherzer Giving Away Memorabilia For Good Cause

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USA Today Sports Images

Max Scherzer Giving Away Memorabilia For Good Cause

By Ryan Wormeli

Max Scherzer is the ace of the Nationals staff, a fan favorite, and the 2017 National League Cy Young award winner. He's also a soon-to-be father whose wife, Erica May-Scherzer, once accidentally threw out the jersey he wore when throwing his 2nd career no-hitter. This time around, I'm guessing they talked it over first before deciding to sell some of his memorabilia garage-style for a new fundraiser.

We don't have any more information about the fundraiser yet, but May-Scherzer posted some photos on Twitter this afternoon. 

And in case you're wondering, no, the Scherzer family cat featured in one of the pictures isn't for sale (we assume). Plus, even if they were willing to part with their cat, considering Scherzer is on a contract worth over $200 Million, their price would probably be pretty steep. How much would you pay to adopt the cat of a 3-time Cy Young winner?

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Why Bryce Harper would be a bargain at $500 million

Why Bryce Harper would be a bargain at $500 million

$500 million.

That number is so hard to wrap your brain around, but it's a number a lot of professional baseball players may soon start seeing on their contracts.

One player who could be the first to see that amount within the next year is Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper.

Harper will become a free agent in 2018 and people are already projecting his market value at close to $500 million, if not more.

Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton signed a contract back in 2014 for 13 years, $325 million, holding the league record.

For Fancy Stats writer Neil Greenberg, $500 million is a bargain for someone of Harper's caliber.

"Harper is every bit as good [as Stanton] but he's also young," Greenberg told the Sports Junkies Friday.

"I mean, we don't see a player that's as good as Harper, that's as young a Harper, hit the market almost ever I want to say. You look at how many years of his prime he has left and then even if you start to give him just the typical aging curb off of that prime, he's probably worth close to 570 million dollars starting from 2019 and going forward ten years. And that includes also the price of free agency going up and other factors."

Harper, who is only 25 years-old, brings more to a team than just talent. He's one of the most recognizable figures in baseball, bringing tremendous marketing opportunities to an organization. Greenberg dove deeper into how that will increase his market value.

"And that's just for the on-the-field product. You talk about all the marketing that's done around Bryce Harper [and] what he does for the game. In my opinion, and based on the numbers that I saw, he's a bargain at $500 million."

Don't we all wish someone would say $500 million is a bargain for us?

After crunching the numbers, the biggest takeaway for Greenberg is the return on investment the Nationals have gotten out of Harper.

"Like if you look at his wins above replacement throughout his career, he's given you 200 million dollars in value for 21 million dollars in cash and he's due what another 26 or 27 million this year. I mean he's already given you an amazing return on investment."

"So, if you're the Nationals having - benefited from that - you know you have a little bit of, I guess, wiggle room in terms of maybe you're paying a little bit for past performance 'cause, you know, when a player is on arbitration in their early years they don't really get paid that much."

The Nationals still have Harper for one more season and many feel they need to make him an offer sooner than later. Whenever and whoever he gets an offer from, it's going to be a nice pay day for him.