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Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 10: Scherzer signs

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Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 10: Scherzer signs

We are counting down the 10 biggest moments of 2015 for the Nationals as we approach New Year's Day. In this first installment, we look back nearly a year ago when the Nats signed Max Scherzer to a record free agent contract...

The Nationals entered last winter with a clear set of goals. They had several key players who were one year away from free agency and the possibility of contract extensions or trades were on the table. The Nats had a reliever in Tyler Clippard that most expected them to trade. And they had a void at second base that provided a chance for an upgrade.

The one part of their roster that appeared to need no help at all was their starting rotation. The Nationals had the best rotation ERA in 2014 with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark all under contract. If it wasn't the best rotation in baseball, it was no doubt the deepest. No one else could boast a No. 5 starter in Roark who went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts. 

One could argue that the Nats had needs, but starting pitching wasn't one of them. But that didn't stop them from reaching an agreement on a record contract with Max Scherzer, the biggest name available on the free agent market. Scherzer signed officially on Jan. 21 for $210 million over seven years. It was a deal that included deferred money through the year 2028 and income subject to state taxes in Florida. Despite having to wait until late in the offseason to sign, Scherzer and his agent Scott Boras got the contract they were seeking all along.

There was a domino effect with Scherzer's signing that pushed Roark to the bullpen where he struggled for much of the year. But there is no questioning Scherzer's production in his first season with the Nationals.

For years the Nationals thought they had a group of aces between Strasburg, Zimmermann and Gio, but Scherzer quickly showed Washington what a truly dominant pitcher looks like. Through the first 16 of his 33 starts he held a 1.82 ERA and opponents to a .181 batting average. He struck out 139 batters in 118 2/3 innings. He no-hit the Pirates on June 20 and came within one strike of a perfect game. In the start before that he carved up the Brewers for 16 strikeouts, one walk and just one hit in a shutout. 

Scherzer was also making strides in subtle ways. He was cutting down his pitches per inning to become more efficient and last later into games.

Somehow, Scherzer had managed to find another gear after signing his big free agent deal. That's not how it usually works, but this was Scherzer's way of showing he was as advertised, a perennial Cy Young candidate capable of absolutely demolishing an opposing lineup.

Scherzer would slow down and post a 5.05 ERA in his next 12 outings before recovering to hold a 1.63 ERA over his final five starts, including his second no-hitter of the season on Oct. 3 against the Mets. And overall, his numbers were impressive. He placed fifth in NL Cy Young voting with a 2.79 ERA and a ridiculous 276 strikeouts in 228 2/3 innings.

Scherzer has six years left on his contract with the Nationals, but so far, so good. And now with Zimmermann having left in free agency and Strasburg facing that possibility a year from now, Scherzer is the guy in Washington. His signing was one of the biggest moments of 2015 and one that will affect the franchise for years to come.

[RELATED: Appreciating Jordan Zimmermann’s Nationals career]

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Former National Jayson Werth pleads guilty to DUI in Arizona

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USA Today

Former National Jayson Werth pleads guilty to DUI in Arizona

Former National Jayson Werth pled guilty last week to driving under the influence in Arizona. 

The plea deal stems from an April arrest, when Werth was at the Mariners' spring training facility in Peoria. 

He was sentenced to a diversion program, ordered drug and alcohol screening, and fined more than $1,600, along with having his driver's license suspended. 

The Mariners said it didn't affect their decisions to not call him up before he retired this summer. 

The Nationals inducted Werth into their Ring of Honor earlier this month. The team was not aware of the charges against Werth at the time, according to reports.

In January 2015, Werth pled guilty to reckless driving after he was cited for going 105 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone of the Beltway in Virginia. He served 10 days in jail for those charges.

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Harper drives in 100th run, Nationals beat Marlins 7-3

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USA Today Sports Images

Harper drives in 100th run, Nationals beat Marlins 7-3

Anthony Rendon homered and drove four runs, Bryce Harper reached 100 RBIs in a season for the first time and the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 7-3 on Monday night.

Juan Soto and Matt Wieters also homered for Washington, which broke it open with four runs on three pitches in the fourth inning.

Harper started the big inning, driving in his 100th run with a sacrifice fly that scored Adam Eaton and put Washington ahead 3-1. Harper, a pending free agent who may be playing his final home series at Nationals Park, got a standing ovation from the sparse, rain-soaked crowd. His previous high was 99 RBIs in 2015, when he won the NL MVP Award.

Rendon and Soto then homered back-to-back on the next two pitches from Sandy Alcantara (2-2). Rendon lofted a two-run shot, his 23rd, down the left-field line, and then Soto lined one into the visitors' bullpen in left-center to make it 6-1.

Rendon extended his on-base streak to 32 games, the longest active streak in the majors.

Peter O'Brien had two hits for Miami, which had won three straight. The Marlins left 10 men on base.

Justin Miller (7-1) allowed one unearned run in the fifth in relief of Stephen Strasburg, who was pulled after throwing 100 pitches over four innings. Strasburg gave up a run on three hits and four walks while striking out five and hitting a batter.

Strasburg hasn't lost since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 22.

Alcantara allowed six runs on seven hits and five walks in four innings.

The Nationals trailed 1-0 in the first when Rendon's double scored Eaton and Harper.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Marlins: Manager Don Mattingly expects RHP Jose Urena, who experienced leg cramps last time out, to make his next scheduled start Friday in New York. "He ran yesterday," Mattingly said. "It looks like he's going to be fine. He's getting an extra day (Thursday) anyway. I think he'll start."

Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark went home Sunday to be with his wife after the recent birth of their third child. He is still slated to start Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Marlins: RHP Jeff Brigham (0-3, 5.84) makes his fourth major league start and first against Washington.

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (17-7, 2.57) needs 10 strikeouts to reach 300 for the season. He's 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA against the Marlins in 2018.

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