Nationals

Nowitzki, Mavs hold off Lin-led surge for Rockets

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Nowitzki, Mavs hold off Lin-led surge for Rockets

DALLAS (AP) Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 points, O.J. Mayo hit two tiebreaking free throws and the Dallas Mavericks held off a Jeremy Lin-led surge to beat the Houston Rockets 105-100 on Wednesday night.

Lin and James Harden combined to score the last 18 points for the Rockets, who erased an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit and got even at 97. After Elton Brand blocked a layup attempt by Harden, Mayo hit both free throws after getting fouled on a layup at the other end.

Lin had a chance to tie the score on free throws, but missed the second of two. The Rockets got one more chance, but Harden couldn't get a good look at a layup. Nowitzki then hit two free throws for a 101-98 lead.

Dallas won its season-best fourth straight, and the Rockets lost their fifth in a row.

Harden finished with 20 points and Lin had 19.

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How does Manny Machado's deal affect Bryce Harper? Racing Presidents crew reacts

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How does Manny Machado's deal affect Bryce Harper? Racing Presidents crew reacts

One of the most talented, sought-after free agents in baseball history finally chose his new team today, and the impact is clear for the Nationals.

What’s that? You assumed it was Bryce Harper? Well, you’d be mistaken.

Manny Machado, the other 26-year old superstar free agent, agreed to terms with the Padres Tuesday on a record-breaking contract. The 10-year, $300 million deal has an opt-out after five seasons, and is the largest free agent contract in North American sports history.

Naturally, with the Hot Stove *finally* heating up, the Racing Presidents crew got together for an EMERGENCY PODCAST.

Tim, Tim and Todd reacted to the Manny Machado signing, with a slant towards how it affects the Nationals and their pursuit of Bryce Harper. The most obvious favorite for Harper’s services has been Philadelphia, and that seems more likely than ever. 

“They need to get one of these two guys,” Todd Dybas said when asked if this move solidifies the Phillies as prohibitive favorites. “They’ve made plenty of moves to stabilize their team, but none of those guys they’ve signed so far are Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.”

With Machado ultimately agreeing to the same deal Harper reportedly turned down at the beginning of the offseason, Todd sees Harper setting his sights even higher.

“He’ll be back on track with asking for more money than [Giancarlo] Stanton received in his [$325 million] extension,” Dybas continued. “He wants the largest sum possible in all equations. No more semantics, it’s just Bryce got the most money, and here it is. So I think it puts a lot of pressure on the Phillies, and if they were actually prepared to spend stupid money, they have to do that now.”

While from one perspective it seems like this might make Harper-to-the-Phillies more likely, Tim Shovers points out how it could benefit the Nationals, suggesting that we “know that the Padres are now out of the Harper bidding.”

Of course, MLB insider Jon Heyman later reported that Shovers’ take may not be accurate.

The bottom line question is simple: does this eliminate the Nationals? Both Shovers and Murray felt confident saying no.

“They are eliminated if you think that the Lerners are stuck on their 10 for 300 with absolutely zero wiggle room. I do not think they are 100% stuck on that,” Shovers explained. “I don’t think they’re willing to go to 350 or 360 or 340, but if the Phillies are like you know what were offering 309, I think the Nats would sign him for 310, so no, I don’t think this eliminates him for Washington.”

As Murray points out, super agent Scott Boras has almost certainly already acted on this new information.

He says ”Boras has probably called [the Phillies] already and said alright, the floor is yours, what are you going to give us?”

Catch the entire latest episode of the Racing Presidents, NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals podcast.

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Howie Kendrick? He wants everyone to know he is fully healed

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Howie Kendrick? He wants everyone to know he is fully healed

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Howie Kendrick stated this months ago: He’ll be ready for spring training.

He said it toward the end of last season. Kendrick was walking gently at that point, just a few months out from a surgery to repair his torn Achilles tendon. May 19. Kendrick was on the seat of his white pants on the warning track. He no longer had control of his foot. Kendrick knew the year was over.

Various members of the Nationals would mention him the rest of the season. Davey Martinez always added Kendrick if someone rattled off the list of injured and forgot to include the 35-year-old. Mike Rizzo brought it up in public and private. Gone was a veteran who could play two infield positions and left field, as well as handle any situational hitting in his 13th season. Gone was a veteran who would use directness in the clubhouse when necessary. Both became factors in a middling season.

“When Howie was available and playing every day, he was doing really well,” Martinez said. “I could hit him anywhere in the lineup -- at second, at first, at outfield. He was doing really well. But, what people don’t realize, is Howie in that clubhouse is the constant. He’s the guy where if he thinks something is not right, or you didn’t do this, you didn’t do that, he’d be the guy to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be the guy to run the balls out. Let’s go.’ Or if he’d somebody down, he pats them on the back.’ C’mon, man. Let’s go. We’ll get this done.’ But he was that constant guy.”

He’s back now, like he said he would be, taking ground balls at second base along with newly signed Brian Dozier during the Nationals’ first full squad workout of spring training Tuesday. Kendrick worked in Arizona last season and in the offseason to get to this point. He followed protocols from the Nationals’ medical staff and his personal trainer, helping Kendrick evolve from scooter-dependent to walking slowly to running to sprinting. Once in West Palm Beach, he was unrestricted, as promised.

“Everything has been good,” Kendrick said. “I told them last year when I left, I told them my goal is to be ready for day one of spring training, and I've been running for about three weeks now, sprinting and stuff, simulating running the bases and things like that.”

Rizzo entered the offseason by saying the team was comfortable with a platoon of Wilmer Difo and Kendrick at second base. He later signed Dozier to a one-year deal, chasing the pop of his bat and expecting a bounce-back season. Dozier is right next to Kendrick in the clubhouse. The move pleased Kendrick. It could have irritated him because of its clear influence on his playing time.

“We're trying to win ball games, I don't really think about it,” Kendrick said. “I know Brian, I played against him over in the AL. He's a great player, great defender, a lot of power, you know I'm excited to have him here. My role on this team hasn't changed, I'm going to play everywhere like I did in previous couple years, and you know I look at it like that. The at-bats I get are the at-bats I get, I'm not here to complain about anything, I'm here to play baseball, try to help guys get better and try to win ball games. 

“At the end of the day I think that's really important. As far as Dozier, he's the second baseman, guy can play.”

Kendrick’s time in the game is dwindling. He’s coming off major surgery. The market for 36-year-old second baseman/outfielders is extremely limited. If other value what Martinez and Rizzo do, maybe Kendrick finds another contract, which prevents him from graduating to full-time coach status for his kids. In the interim, he’s healthy in West Palm Beach.

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