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Murphy, Turner homer as Nats sweep Diamondbacks

Murphy, Turner homer as Nats sweep Diamondbacks

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 8-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday afternoon at Chase Field.

How it happened: Apparently Trea Turner and Max Scherzer can simply do it all.

Having already shown the ability to play sound center field, get on base and wreak havoc with his speed, Turner hit a tape measure home run in Wednesday's 8-3 Nationals win over the Diamondbacks. It registered as a 451-foot bomb to left-center field and it broke a scoreless tie in the third inning to get the Nats started towards another blowout victory.

That's the second-longest homer hit by a Nats player this season, only behind Wilson Ramos' 455-foot shot at Nationals Park on July 24. Even Bryce Harper's third-deck blast on July 20 at Nats Park fell short at 449. Turner's was his first homer of this season and the second of his career.

Scherzer dazzled both on the mound and at the plate. He tossed eight innings of three-run ball with 11 strikeouts and one walk. He also drove in two runs on a single with the bases loaded in the sixth inning and now has five RBI on the season.

Daniel Murphy also left the park with a solo shot in the sixth inning, his 21st of the year. The Nats later added four insurance runs in the top of the ninth. One was on a Danny Espinosa ground-rule double. Pedro Severino was then walked with the bases loaded to score another before Clint Robinson brought in two more on a pinch-hit single. 

Everyone in the Nats' starting lineup had at least one hit for the second time this series. Murphy, Severino and Ben Revere each had two.

The Nats have won three straight and swept the Diamondbacks for their eighth sweep of the 2016 season. They outscored Arizona 32-7 during the series and had 48 total hits.

What it means: The Nats moved to 64-44 on the year, back to 20 games over .500 for the first time since July 16. That puts them on a 96-win pace. The Marlins lost to the Cubs on Wednesday and have dropped three straight, which gives the Nats a seven-game lead in the NL East. That matches a season-high.

Scherzer tops his former team: Scherzer's day began with a leadoff walk to Michael Bourn, but after that he was lights out for most of his outing, at one point retiring 12 batters in a row before he gave up a double to David Peralta to lead off the bottom of the fifth. That was the first hit Scherzer surrendered all afternoon.

Scherzer ended up going eight innings with three earned runs allowed on four hits and one walk. He struck out 11 batters four his ninth double-digit strikeout game of this season. That ties him with Clayton Kershaw for the most in MLB this year.

Two of the runs Scherzer gave up were on homers - one to Jake Lamb, one to Yasmany Tomas - and those have been an issue for the right-hander this season, though not lately. Scherzer had only given up one home run in his previous four starts and only two in his last six outings. This was the first time he's given up at least two in one game since June 24, but the sixth time he's done so this year. 

Scherzer moved to 12-6 on the season and now holds a 2.87 ERA.

Murphy hits No. 21: Murphy kept it going on Wednseday, the same day he was named NL Player of the Month for July, his second such award already season. His homer pushed to 21 on the year, which ranks first on the Nats, just ahead of Harper, who has 20. 

Murphy has hit safely in 17 of his last 19 games and is now 37-for-97 (.381) with nine home runs, 12 doubles and 30 RBI in his last 27 outings. That's pretty decent. Murphy's homer put the Nats up 2-1 at the time and gave him his 24th go-ahead RBI of this season, which ranks tops in the majors.

Melancon pitches again: The Nats' four-run ninth inning ruined the first chance to see Melancon in a save situation, but the new Nats closer managed a scoreless ninth inning against the Diamondbacks for the second straight game. This one was a bit more interesting, though, as he gave up a two-out double hit to Peralta, who then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Melancon then struck out Tomas to end the game.

Up next: The Nats are off Thursday before returning to Washington on Friday to host the San Francisco Giants for three games. The Nats have not announced their pitcher for the opener, but starting for the Giants will be pinch-running specialist Jeff Samardzija (9-7, 4.30). First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.

[RELATED: Nats' Strasburg the sportsbook favorite for Cy Young]

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Bryce Harper's longtime friend Kris Bryant says Harper isn't headed for Cubs

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USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper's longtime friend Kris Bryant says Harper isn't headed for Cubs

After weeks of twists and turns and not enough information for any Nationals fan's satisfaction, the Chicago Cubs seem to be out of the race for free agent Bryce Harper.

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant seemingly confirmed the news on Friday night from the opening ceremonies of the 2019 Cubs Convention.

"He's not signing here," Bryant said as he sat down with NBC Sports Chicago. 

Though there have been no official reports of whether or not the Cubs are completely out in the race to sign Harper, a word from one of Harper's longtime friends shouldn't be brushed aside.

Bryant and Harper took the field together in the 2016 MLB All-Star game, and faced off in the 2017 NLDS Cubs-Nats matchup. 

The pair have known each other since grade schoool, and played for rival high schools in Las Vegas. But despite their history, Bryant says that they haven't chatted much about the situation otherwise, choosing to focus on preserving their friendship.

"I never bring it up to him," Bryant admitted. "I try to be a good friend to him, and not talk about baseball when he doesn't want to talk about baseball."

"Whatever happens, I wish [him] the best."

You can see more of Bryant's interview with NBCSC below.

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What's it like for MLB players when their big contract money hits? Some advice for Bryce Harper

What's it like for MLB players when their big contract money hits? Some advice for Bryce Harper

An old friend of Max Scherzer’s came up with an idea: The new buy-in for their longstanding and hyper-competitive fantasy football league would be 10 percent of the participant’s salary. As an assistant baseball coach at a midwest Division I university, this would be a significant risk. However, he believed the chance was worth it since Scherzer had just signed with the Washington Nationals for $210 million.

Scherzer enjoyed the humor and emphatically nixed the idea. But, the point remains. Things change when finances increase to unfathomable levels. In the case of Bryce Harper, the world is about to change for generations of Harpers once he finally signs a new contract.

The idea of signing a single contract which guarantees such gargantuan sums is a strange one. Even to those signing. The 2016 Census pegged average annual American income at $57,617. If Scherzer averages 32 starts per year during the course of his seven-year deal, he’ll earn $937,500 per start. Informed having such financial clout is inconceivable to 99.9 percent of the population, Scherzer laughed in agreement.

“I know, I know,” Scherzer told me. “It’s inconceivable to me, too.”

So, what’s it like when money of that level hits? Harper’s next contract is expected to be north of Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million extension. For this extrapolation exercise, let’s call it $350 million coming up for Harper. That should be enough to cover eight generations of Harpers at $100,000 annually for 80 years each with plenty left over. Crazy, right?

Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman were both wealthy by any standard before signing their large deals. Scherzer banked nearly $30 million worth of contracts prior to the giant haul with the Nationals. Zimmerman cashed almost $20 million ahead of his six-year, $100 million contract extension in 2012.

They share similar views on the path to the money, why it exists and what happens (or should) after it hits.

“I think a lot of us work our whole lives, sacrifice a lot of things, [but] not for that,” Zimmerman told NBC Sports Washington. “Like, when you first start doing something, you don’t do it to make $100 million. But once you get into the business and start to do what you have to do -- it doesn’t, at least for me, I think you hope it doesn’t change who the person is. I think you come to realize, or at least I was always taught, you receive that or earn that because of the person that you are or the work that you do and you should just continue being that same person. You shouldn’t change. You’re just really fortunate to get paid that much money and play a game, but you have to remember why you got to that point.

“It’s hard to comprehend what it does to your life, because you’re in it. I think you’ll understand that more when you’re done playing. But you have the ability to obviously take care of your children and their children, and that’s the life side of it. I think that’s pretty cool. When you sign that, you realize I just took care of -- not just yourself, you don’t care about yourself -- you think about generations if you correctly take care of it.”

Scherzer was in agreement.

“Look...I think a lot of us, at the end of the day, would play this game out of love,” Scherzer said. “The money’s just a bonus on top. The money aspect of it really is just a fight for what -- the game generates all this type of money and it’s a fight for who rightfully deserves it, whether it’s the owners or the players. Who actually gets the fans to come out to the games? That’s where the business side of the game gets ugly because it turns into you’re actually having to argue what you’re actually doing on the field. That’s why it’s never a fun thing to actually talk about or have to explain, but every player understands it at the end of the day.

“Free agency exposes everything in your life. All your friends, your family. Just exposes every single circle that you have. You find out more about yourself going through that process, about the people around you, about how stable your life is. So that when you do actually sign a contract that sets you up for life, you know you’ve been down a road that you’ve had to fight for and you can just compartmentalize what’s going on, that you now have money for the rest of your life. That, at the end of the day, that is not the reason you play the game of baseball. The reason you play the game of baseball is because you want to win. For me, that was something I was able to grasp onto.”

Scherzer went on to point out there are no rule changes on the field because you own an enormous contract. The ball doesn’t care, the mound doesn’t care, the parameters of the game between the lines don’t care.

He also mentioned he still has the same favorite televisions shows. He continues to root for his favorite non-baseball teams just the same. His year-old daughter, Brooklyn, is unconcerned, as is the horde of rescue animals patrolling the house.

“Money doesn’t buy happiness,” Scherzer said. “It buys comfort and convenience.”

Zimmerman had to think for a minute when asked if he made any nonsensical purchases following his large extension. He bought a Land Rover (“or something like that”) and paid off his parents’ house. He also eventually bought a new house for his family.

“That was really it,” Zimmerman said. “... I don’t do anything crazy. I don’t know. I try not to be real stupid with anything.”

He laughed at the final line. Though it seems like sound advice, no matter income level.

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