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Harper, Werth and Espinosa homer in Nats' comeback win over Braves


Harper, Werth and Espinosa homer in Nats' comeback win over Braves

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals dug themselves into an early hole with a bit of sloppy play (dropped throws to the plate, runners straying too far off base) and poor at-bats against left-hander Eric Stults. But the tide quickly turned after that, thanks to a long-awaited blast from an old friend ... and then two more from a very familiar face.

Jayson Werth's fourth-inning homer (his first of the season) got the Nationals going and ignited the rest of the lineup. Bryce Harper launched his fourth homer in seven at-bats to give the Nats the lead in the sixth, then Danny Espinosa added his own in the seventh for a big insurance run. Oh, and then Harper added another one for good measure, launching a 3-run shot to right in the eighth for his fifth homer in eight games, earning another curtain call. And then Espinosa did it again himself, sending his second homer in as many innings over the wall in left to turn this game into a rout.

The Nationals beat the Braves 9-2.

Gio Gonzalez pitched exceptionally well, going seven innings before handing things over to the bullpen. Rookie Matt Grace delivered an important scoreless frame in the eighth, and Blake Treinen finished it off with a scoreless ninth, sending the Nationals to their eighth win in 10 games and getting them back to the .500 mark overall.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Werth's first homer of the season deserves to be highlighted. So do Espinosa's two left-handed homers. But who are we kidding, it's all about Harper right now. Forty-eight hours after his 3-homer afternoon against the Marlins, he was back in full force against the Braves. He took Stults deep to left-center in the sixth and then greeted Williams Perez (making his MLB debut) with a towering, 3-run bomb to right that earned the 22-year-old his second curtain call in as many games. Harper now is tied with Cincinnati's Todd Frazier for the NL lead with 10 homers while also leading MLB with 26 walks. That's an impressive combo, a pair of league-leading stats typically reserved for only the game's very best hitters. Harper is beginning to prove he belongs in that discussion.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: It wasn't perfect, but this was a really, really good start by Gonzalez. Yes, he allowed two early runs, but those were aided in part by Andrelton Simmons sticking his foot out of the batter's box to get hit by a pitch and by Wilson Ramos dropping a 1-hop throw that would've beat Simmons to the plate two innings later. After that, Gonzalez was fantastic, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. He wound up issuing only one walk while striking out eight, and his pitch count of 103 was more than manageable.

KEY STAT: Over the last two seasons, Freddie Freeman owns a .294 batting average. Take out his 42-for-91 against the Nationals, though, and that batting average drops to .269.

UP NEXT: The series continues at 4:05 p.m. Saturday when Doug Fister (2-1, 2.61) faces Julio Teheran (3-1, 3.82). Be sure to get to the ballpark early for pregame ceremonies honoring former manager Frank Robinson.

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg's status still in limbo

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In wake of the Eaton-Frazier dilemma, what are the biggest former teammate beefs in sports?

In wake of the Eaton-Frazier dilemma, what are the biggest former teammate beefs in sports?

Some sports beef just never go away.

On Monday, former Chicago White Sox teammates Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier had to be separated during the third inning of the New York Mets 5-3 victory over the Nationals. The two have never liked each other, and their beef with one another extends as far back as 2016. 

D.C. Sports Live's Julia Donaldson and Travis Thomas discuss what other teammate beefs in recent memory compare with the saga between Eaton and Frazier.

Donaldson initially brought up the beef between former Pittsburgh Steelers teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. The two were very critical of each other vocally to the media throughout their final season together in Pittsburgh. Their relationship reached a point of no repair, as the Steelers shipped their All-Pro receiver to the Oakland Raiders in March.

For Thomas, the first teammate beef that came to mind was the incident between former Nationals teammates Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon. It's hard to forget the image of Papelbon choking out Harper for not hustling and running out the bases.

Sticking with baseball, another teammate beef from recent memory is the everlasting dislike between Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants. The two were teammates from 1997-2002, and their dislike for another was very much in the public eye. Their hatred for another reached a peak in June 2002, when the two of them had to be separated from another, and Kent publicly said he wanted to leave the team. He was then dealt to Houston in the offseason. 

Other former teammate sports beefs that come to mind are Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal when they were teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers. The two stars both wanted to be the clear main No. 1 option, which led the Lakers to trade Shaq to the Miami Heat. The trade ended up working out for both parties, as O'Neal won a championship in Miami, while Bryant led the Lakers to two more championships in 2009 and 2010.

What other teammate sports beefs come to mind?


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Mike Rizzo: Nationals are 'aggressively' trying to re-sign Anthony Rendon

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Mike Rizzo: Nationals are 'aggressively' trying to re-sign Anthony Rendon

The Washington Nationals have every intention of trying to reach a long-term deal with Anthony Rendon, GM Mike Rizzo said, looking to quell concern after a report Tuesday that he may be on his way out after the 2019 season.

"Anthony Rendon is a guy that we drafted, developed, signed and watch turn into a star in front of our eyes," Rizzo said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday. "He’s a guy that we’d like to have long-term. We’re certainly going to be aggressive and try to make that happen and hopefully, it will."

Nationals fans are growing anxious after the front office couldn't get a deal done with Bryce Harper, hoping a repeat wouldn't happen with Rendon who has had a breakout career with the Nats.

"We have shown that we’re not afraid to sign our own players, we’re not afraid to sign free agent players, and we’re not afraid to spend money on stars of the game and I don’t think Anthony Rendon would be any different," Rizzo said.

Grant Paulsen said on Tuesday on 106.7 The Fan's "Grant and Danny Show," that he believes the Nationals have missed their opportunity to re-sign Rendon.

"Here's something I heard from someone who recently talked to Scott Boras," Paulsen said. "Apparently, he told that person that the Nationals already missed the boat on getting a deal done with Anthony Rendon." 

Rizzo and the Nationals have already offered Rendon a contract extension in late March, to which he turned down. Since then, nothing has come to fruition. 

"It also takes two to get a deal done," Rizzo said. "We're aggressively trying to sign Anthony Rendon. We’d love to have him here as a National long-term.”

The Nationals look to bounce back after two straight losses to the New York Mets tonight at 7:10 p.m.