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Nats blow 4-run lead, lose 10th of last 13 games

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Nats blow 4-run lead, lose 10th of last 13 games

By GENARO C. ARMAS

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Scooter Gennett drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth, capping the Milwaukee Brewers' rally from a four-run deficit for a 6-5 win Thursday night over the Washington Nationals.

Gennett's bouncer trickled just inside the third-base bag and into left to drive home Shane Peterson from third. A throwing error by second baseman Anthony Rendon that allowed Peterson to reach two batters earlier proved costly for reliever Aaron Barrett (3-2).

Gennett smiled when he reached first. It was his first game back in the majors since being sent down to Triple-A for 17 games to work on his swing.

Will Smith (2-0) pitched a scoreless top of the eighth -- ending that inning by picking off Bryce Harper -- for the win in his first appearance since returning from a six-game suspension for being caught with foreign substance on his arm.

Francisco Rodriguez tossed a scoreless ninth for his 13th save in as many opportunities.

The Brewers are still in last place in the NL Central, but they've been playing much better of late with five victories in their last seven games.

It didn't look like Milwaukee would pull out a win after a sloppy start Thursday.

Three Washington runs scored on errors, including two runs in a three-run fourth following an atypical throwing miscue by third baseman Aramis Ramirez on a two-out bouncer by Rendon for a 5-1 lead.

But the Brewers chipped away over the middle innings, and Gerardo Parra tied the game at 5 with a solo homer to deep right-center with one out in the seventh off starter Tanner Roark.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day disabled list before the game with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, an ailment that affected the first baseman all season. Manager Matt Williams said he thought that Zimmerman would need the minimum time on the disabled list, though for now he needed "total rest" and to get off his feet for a few days.

Brewers: CF Carlos Gomez (sore legs) missed a second straight game. Manager Craig Counsell said he hoped to get Gomez back on Friday or Saturday. ... RF Ryan Braun had two hits and an RBI triple on Thursday, a day after leaving Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh because of dizziness stemming from a left ear ailment.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Jordan Zimmerman (5-3) is slated to start Friday back in his home state. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts against Milwaukee at Miller Park, which is about 180 miles southeast of Zimmerman's hometown of Auburndale.

Brewers: After a tough start to the season, Mike Fiers (2-6) has been effective over his last six starts. He is 1-2 with a 2.78 ERA in that span.

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Tom Verducci gives more specifics on Bryce Harper's 2016 injury

Tom Verducci gives more specifics on Bryce Harper's 2016 injury

Entering 2016, Bryce Harper was ready to take over the world. After putting forth one of the most impressive offensive seasons in recent memory in 2015, he was rewarded by being named the youngest unanimous MVP in the history of baseball. The following season, he was prepared to take another step forward.

Instead, he slashed .243/.373/.441 with 24 home runs, and questions abounded about why he was struggling.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, one of baseball’s most accomplished reporters, wrote a story late in the season about how Harper had suffered a shoulder injury, according to a source. The Nationals vehemently denied these reports at the time, claiming that their doctors were not aware of any medical issues with Harper’s shoulder. Mike Rizzo said he asked Harper directly if he was hurt and was told no.

At this year’s Winter Meetings, Verducci spoke with NBC Sports Washington, and he doubled down on his reporting.

“2016, of course, that’s when he injured his shoulder. It was a slide in Milwaukee, about one-third of the way into the season, was never quite the same.”

Whereas in 2016 Verducci simply referred to “a source,” it appears this information came from Harper directly.

“As he told me,” Verducci says, “He could not lift weights upper-body wise through the rest of that season, he lost weight, didn’t have the same kind of power. He was compromised even throwing on defense, he had to compromise by playing much more shallow.”

“The numbers in ‘16 really are a function of the injury.”

One concern Nats fans have about signing Harper to a major deal is how his numbers in the post-MVP years have failed to match 2015. According to Baseball-Reference, his combined Wins Above Replacement total from 2016-18 is 7.5. His bWAR in 2015 alone was 10.0. Still, Harper never had an OPS+ below 114 in that stretch. Even his “down” seasons would still be considered quality years for most big league hitters.

Harper is also just now entering his prime, however, so presumably many of his best seasons are still to come. For one MLB insider, at least, there’s no real cause for concern about a long term deal as long as Harper can stay healthy.

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The case for the Phillies as the frontrunner for Bryce Harper, according to Tim Kurkjian

The case for the Phillies as the frontrunner for Bryce Harper, according to Tim Kurkjian

Well, this is not what Nationals fans want to hear. 

There is no bigger buzz at MLB's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas than where free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign. Tim Kurkjian, one of the most respected baseball analysts, believes that Harper will stay in the NL East, but sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, not with the Nationals. 

"I think the most logical landing spot for Bryce Harper is the Phillies," Kurkjian said. "The Phillies have a lot of money and they are willing to spend it. They've made that abundently clear."

The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million extension on the last day of the 2018 regular season. As expected, he declined.

Aside from that ability to offer the 26-year-old a very large contract, Kurkjian thinks that Philadelphia makes perfect sense in Harper for purely baseball reasons. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is also fascinated by what Harper would bring to the table.

"They also have a tremendous need [in the outfield]. They played really well for three or four months last year, but the last two months were not good," Kurkjian said. "That club needs a middle of the order hitter, and they need a star hitter to build around, and Bryce Harper fits that category."

The Phillies have also been rumored to have interest in Machado, but after a recent trade, they may shift their focus more towards Harper.

"[The Phillies] already traded for Jean Segura, a pretty good hitting shortstop," Kurkjian said. "Which means they should, at least to me, be less engaged on Manny Machado and more engaged on Bryce Harper."

Segura hit .304 for the Seattle Mariners in 2018 and was selected to the AL All-Star team.

Of course, Kurkjian is only speculating at this point, as no one will know where Harper ends up until he inks pen to the paper. Each day, there is a new story.

"This story doesn't change by the day, it changes by the hour," Kurkjian said. "But at this hour, I will say, the Phillies look to me to be the best fit for Bryce Harper."

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