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How Aaron Judge could help the Nationals keep Bryce Harper in Washington

How Aaron Judge could help the Nationals keep Bryce Harper in Washington

Every time Aaron Judge launches a screamer to the upper decks, that's one more homer that the Yankees didn't need to pay Bryce Harper $400 million to hit. 

That's the logic ESPN senior writer Andrew Marchand presented last month to suggest that Judge could disrupt the Yankees' plans to go after Harper in 2018. 

And after Judge won the Home Run Derby last night over a hitter like Giancarlo Stanton, it's becoming more and more apparent that he's checking the key boxes that Harper would for the Yankees. 

MORE NATIONALS: Scherzer tabbed N.L. All-Star Starter

1) He's got the star power. After the derby victory, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred said Judge could "become the face of the game." Speaking to ESPN, Judge's agent said he has been approached daily by brands wanting a piece of his client's celebrity. 

2) He's got the hitting power. Judge is leading the MLB with 30 homers and 75 runs at the All-Star Break. At this point in the season, Judge bests Harper in batting average, home runs, RBIs and on-base percentage. 

But unlike Harper – who reportedly could command up to $500 million in free agency – Judge is dirt cheap. He's on making $535,000 this year and won't be an unrestricted free agent until 2023 at age 31, according to Spotrac.com

None of this means the Yankees won't pursue the 2015 MVP, but it might help head off a bidding war that drives his price tag off the charts. Judge could be the difference between wanting and needing Harper in the minds of Brian Cashman and company. 

The Nationals will take any reality that could help keep the price of retaining Harper within their reach. Now, this doesn't help them if and when the Cubs or Dodgers come calling. 

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Conforto’s bases-loaded triple brought Mets to 8-6 over Nationals

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USA Today

Conforto’s bases-loaded triple brought Mets to 8-6 over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Michael Conforto hit a go-ahead, bases-loaded triple, rookie Jeff McNeil matched a career high with four hits and the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 8-6 on a slow and soggy Sunday afternoon.

The first pitch was delayed 25 minutes, and rain continued during the game, which lasted 4 hours, 14 minutes. Washington's grounds crew tended to the infield between innings throughout the day.

The Mets finished their road slate at 40-41, better than their 33-42 mark at home, where they have six games left.

The Nationals, who fell to .500 (78-78), led 3-1 before New York rallied in the fourth. Wander Suero (3-1) entered with one out and two on and issued a walk before McNeil singled in a run.

Conforto then poked a shot to left-center past a diving Michael A. Taylor to clear the bases and make it 5-3. Suero surrendered two more runs in the fifth when Kevin Plawecki delivered an RBI double and scored on Amed Rosario's infield single.

Drew Gagnon (2-1) pitched two scoreless innings for the Mets, who took three of four from the Nationals in the teams' final series of the season. Anthony Swarzak recorded the final five outs for his fourth save in five tries.

New York starter Steven Matz allowed three runs in three innings. Washington's Erick Fedde surrendered three runs in 3 1/3 innings.

McNeil improved his batting average to .328 in 195 at-bats since his big league debut on July 24.

Rookie Victor Robles homered, tripled and drove in three for Washington.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mets: Manager Mickey Callaway said the team still plans to activate 3B David Wright from the disabled list before Tuesday's game against Atlanta. Wright, who has not played for the Mets since May 2016 because of neck, back and shoulder injuries, is scheduled to start Saturday against Miami in what will likely be his final appearance in the big leagues. However, he could also make an earlier appearance. "I wouldn't mind getting him in there and getting him a pinch-hit at bat when it makes sense in the Braves series," Callaway said.

RECORD SWIPE

Washington SS Trea Turner stole second base in the third to set the Nationals' career record with 123. The previous steals leader since the club moved to Washington in 2005 was Ian Desmond's 122 from 2009 to 2015. Turner's 42 steals this season lead the majors.

UP NEXT

Mets: New York has Monday off. RHP Noah Syndergaard (12-4, 3.36 ERA) is scheduled to start Tuesday against Atlanta.

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (9-7, 3.83 ERA), who is 17-7 with a 3.04 ERA in 30 career starts against Miami, gets the nod as Washington opens its final home series of the season Monday against the Marlins.

 

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Nationals 2018 postseason chances officially done

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals 2018 postseason chances officially done

The Washington Nationals turned in one of their best performances on the day the meaningful portion of their season ended.

Rookie Austin Voth and four relievers combined on a one-hitter, and the Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-0 on Saturday, hours after they were eliminated from playoff contention.

“It stings,” manager Dave Martinez said. “But we’ve still got seven more games. ... These guys don’t quit. They came out ready to play today.”

Matt Wieters and Trea Turner homered for Washington, and Bryce Harper added an RBI double.

The Nationals’ loss Friday night, coupled with the Atlanta Braves’ win, knocked them out of the NL East race. Then, shortly after Saturday’s game began, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the San Francisco Giants on a 10th-inning homer, ending Washington’s slim wild card hopes.

“It’s something where we felt like we had the talent in this clubhouse and we still feel like we have the talent in this clubhouse,” Wieters said. “We just didn’t play well enough and that’s why this game’s played on the field and not in the papers and that’s what’s great about it.”

Favored to win a third straight division title, the Nationals slid into third place on June 22 and remained there.

Ownership stood pat at the July trade deadline, and the team responded by winning six of seven games. However, a four-game losing streak soon had the Nationals nine games out of first place in mid-August, and the team unloaded players including Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams.

The team dealt with injuries to pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Sean Doolittle, as well as Adam Eaton, Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman, but even when healthy, Washington was unable to put together an extended winning stretch. The Nationals are 78-77 with seven games remaining after going 97-65 a year ago.

“I think all of us in here would sit here and tell you we came here every day and did everything we could to try and win. At least I did. Because of that I can go home and be at peace with it,” Zimmerman said. “Obviously, it’s frustrating. You want to come out and win every year and have a chance to go into the playoffs.”

Voth (1-1), making his second major league start, allowed only an infield single to Michael Conforto leading off the fourth inning. Voth struck out five with two walks in five innings.

“He kept us off balance,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “He had a good curveball I thought. He was able to throw it for strikes ... and then he got it down when he needed to, and his fastball command was pretty good.”

Even with Saturday’s win, the Nationals will lose the season series to the fourth-place Mets.

Turner’s 18th homer of the season, a two-run shot, put Washington ahead in the third, and Wieters added a three-run homer off reliever Jerry Blevins in the sixth.

New York’s Corey Oswalt (3-3) allowed two runs over five innings.

Matt Grace, Justin Miller, Jimmy Cordero and Austen Williams each worked an inning for Washington in relief of Voth.

Harper drew his 125th walk of the season, a career high and a Nationals record.

STREAKING

Washington’s Anthony Rendon extended his on-base streak to 30 games with a sixth-inning double, and Turner extended his on-base streak to 22 games with a first-inning double.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: 2B Jeff McNeil was given the day off.

Nationals: OF Eaton (sore and stiff left knee) was out of the starting lineup for the fifth time in six games.

UP NEXT

LHP Steven Matz (5-11, 4.18 ERA) makes his sixth start of the season against the Nationals, who will start RHP Erick Fedde (2-3, 5.02) in the series finale.

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