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Werth's walk-off single leads Nationals over Cubs in 12th inning

Werth's walk-off single leads Nationals over Cubs in 12th inning

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 5-4 walk-off win over the Chicago Cubs in extra innings on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park.

How it happened: Sometimes a head-to-head record, no matter how lopsided one way or the other, can only tell so much about how two teams compare, even if one club takes five of seven matchups in a span of six short weeks.

After their walk-off win on Wednesday at Nationals Park, the Nats now sit just 2-5 against the Cubs this season, but the lessons are in the details. Look at the run differential, a slight 31-29 advantage for the Cubs. And look at what happened on Wednesday in what was one of the most closely fought thrillers you will see the Nationals play this season.

The day began with a slugfest between starters Stephen Strasburg and Jason Hammel and ended with a walkoff hit by Jayson Werth in the 12th inning, his second game-winner in a span of four days. It was an emphatic final scene for a season series that will leave many rooting for the two teams to meet again in October.

Werth's big swing followed a pinch-hit homer by Stephen Drew in the bottom of the eighth, a two-run bomb by Anthony Rizzo in the top of the ninth, a game-tying single by Wilson Ramos one frame later, a go-ahead single by Addison Russell in the top of the 12th and then another game-tying knock by Michael Taylor in the bottom of the 12th.

The Nationals' bullpen failed them, recovered and then crumbled again, yet each time their lineup responded. The 12th inning rally started with Danny Espinosa getting hit by a pitch. He then stole second to set up Taylor's game-tying single. Taylor then came all the way around from first on Werth's line drive against Cubs reliever Trevor Cahill.

What it means: The Nats won this series against the Cubs and moved to 2-5 against Chicago this season. If these two teams match up again it will be the in the playoffs, and regular season records can only tell you so much once October arrives. The Mets, for instance, went 0-7 against the Cubs last regular season and then swept them in the NLCS. 

Drew homers again: The Nats and Cubs remained locked at 1-1 for 6 1/2 innings before Drew broke the tie in the bottom of the eighth with his sixth homer of the season. It was the ninth pinch-hit home run for the Nats this year, which is a club record.

Drew has now clubbed a homer once every 10.8 at-bats this season. That leads the Nationals. Behind him are Chris Heisey (15) and Bryce Harper (15.4).

Strasburg, Hammel square off: Put two of the best scoring lineups on a baseball field in the middle of June and you might expect a barrage of extra base hits and runs. On Wednesday, Strasburg and Hammel had other ideas.

The two right-handers barely budged through a back-and-forth pitchers duel in the season finale between the Nats and Cubs. Strasburg went seven innings of one-run ball and Hammel matched him step-for-step. 

Strasburg's lone run came in the first at-bat of the game on a leadoff homer by Ben Zobrist. Hammel's only blemish was a wild pitch in the bottom of the first that scored Ben Revere from third. After that both pitchers locked into place and didn't look back.

Strasburg recovers: If it weren't for the first at-bat of the game, this would have been one of Strasburg's most dominant starts this season. He rebounded from the Zobrist homer to go seven innings with six hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. Each of the first four innings saw the leadoff batter reach base, but in three of those he left the frame without any harm. Strasburg finished his outing by retiring 12 of the last 14 batters he faced. Strasburg earned a no-decision, which preserves his perfect 10-0 record. He now holds a 2.90 ERA on the season through 14 starts with a Monday night matchup opposite Clayton Kershaw awaiting him in L.A.

Rendon ejected: Following Russell's go-ahead hit, Anthony Rendon was tossed by home plate ump Bob Davidson for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the 12th. It was the first ejection of his career and it got Dusty Baker all sorts of animated after he came out to intervene. Baker was spared on what just happened to be his 67th birthday. The Nats were lucky to end it when they did, as Baker was out of infielders after Rendon's exit.

Zobrist sets the tone: The Nationals had held Zobrist in check so far this series after he killed them in the first series at Wrigley. He went 1-for-6 with a walk across Monday and Tuesday night, but came through for Chicago in the finale. Zobrist homered in his first at-bat and also drew a walk. Through seven outings against the Nats this season, Zobrist is 8-for-24 (.333) with three homers, 10 RBI and seven walks. That's no way to treat a team that made him a generous free agent offer this past winter.

Up next: The Nationals move west to begin a 10-game road trip in San Diego against the Padres. Tanner Roark (5-4, 2.93) gets the start for the Nats opposite Padres right-hander Erik Johnson (0-1, 9.64).

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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