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Span caps late rally to avoid sweep by Yankees


Span caps late rally to avoid sweep by Yankees

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: As was the case Tuesday night, the Nationals and Yankees found themselves in a tight pitchers' duel for six innings. And as was the case Tuesday, the Yankees then busted out for four runs in the seventh to take the lead. This time, though, the Nats stormed back to tie the game ... and then won it in extra innings.

The Nationals held a 2-0 lead after six thanks to Danny Espinosa's homer and back-to-back doubles by Espinosa and Denard Span, plus Gio Gonzalez's strong start. But Gonzalez faded in the seventh, and the Nats bullpen couldn't stop the bleeding. The Yankees scored four runs off Felipe Rivero and Aaron Barrett, with some help from an ailing Span (whose bad bad may have prevented him from tracking down a pair of deep flyballs to center) and a lucky bounce of a grounder off second base.

Down to their last six outs, the Nationals turned to a familiar face to save the day: Michael Taylor. The rookie outfielder (inserted for defense the previous inning) delivered again at the plate, driving a 2-run, opposite-field homer to tie the game in the top of the eighth. It was Taylor's fifth homer of the season, the last four of which all tied or gave the Nats the lead in the fifth inning or later.

And this one proved really meaningful, thanks to the Nationals' game-winning rally in the 11th. Tyler Moore started it off with a single to left, then advanced 180 feet on a sac bunt and a groundball. That set the stage for Span, who despite a bad back that sidelined him Tuesday night, managed to leg out a chopper to second base for his third hit of the day. This one was the biggest of all, giving the Nationals a much-needed win and a series split.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: This notion would've sounded ludicrous three months ago, but it's absolutely true right now: The Nationals need to find ways to get Espinosa in their lineup on a regular basis. He has made that so by completely revamping his left-handed swing, and the results have been staggering. With a 3-hit performance Wednesday (including a solo homer in the fifth), Espinosa now sports a .238/.340/.451 slash line from the left side of the plate, with a sizable increase in home run rate (from 2 percent to 5 percent) and a sizable decrease in strikeout rate (from 37 percent to 24 percent). So, how do the Nats keep him in the lineup? Well, with Jayson Werth out til August and his replacements struggling, Espinosa looks like a good bet to get his first career start in left field sometime soon.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This was among the best starts Gonzalez has put together all season, though it ended sooner and not as positive as the lefty would have liked. Gonzalez carried a shutout into the seventh, displaying solid command of both his fastball and curveball. He was fairly efficient (by his usual standards) but not quite efficient enough to give Matt Williams the seven full innings he coveted. Gonzalez wound up getting pulled at 103 pitches, recording only one out in the seventh. Overall, though, the Nats have to be pleased with the way the left-hander looked on this day.

KEY STAT: For the first time in his professional career, Bryce Harper faced a pitcher young than him. Left-hander Jacob Lindgren (22 years, 90 days) entered in the top of the eighth and got Harper (22 years, 237 days) to fly out to left.

UP NEXT: This odd, three-parts-of-the-country road trip continues with a 4-game weekend series in Milwaukee. Thursday's 8:10 p.m. EDT opener features Tanner Roark (2-2, 3.16) vs. veteran right-hander Matt Garza (4-7, 5.09).

MORE NATIONALS: Slumping and hurting, Zimmerman out of lineup

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Have the Nationals missed their opportunity to re-sign Anthony Rendon?

Have the Nationals missed their opportunity to re-sign Anthony Rendon?

Despite numerous conversations and GM Mike Rizzo's assurances that a deal will get done, the Nationals and third baseman Anthony Rendon still have not come to an agreement on a new deal.

But that stalling might have cost the Nationals. According to Grant Paulsen on Tuesday's Grant & Danny show on 106.7 The Fan, the Nats have missed their opportunity to re-sign him. Rendon becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

"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." 

"Now, that's up to Anthony Rendon, not Scott Boras. And I think that's probably an agent starting to float (interest in Rendon)," Paulsen continued. "If I'm Scott Boras, I would want people to think it's too late. But he is at least already telling people the Nationals missed the boat."

The optics of losing Rendon and outfielder Bryce Harper in back-to-back seasons is something that fans are already thinking about.

"What would it look like if he walked within a calendar year of Bryce walking?" Paulsen said. "And this is an organization that was a division winner year in year out, a playoff team, precipice of a World Series run perhaps. And in a span of two off-seasons, you could have lost your two best players."

"The history says already this team doesn't pay their own guys a lot of money," Paulsen noted. "I would wonder and worry about the health of the fan base, baseball in D.C. as a growing entity and as this beloved organization if the Lerner's allowed Anthony Rendon to walk."

One place Rendon could end up would be in his home state of Texas should he choose to walk.

"A team with immense money is the Texas Rangers," Paulsen explained. "Anthony Rendon is from Texas. That would make a lot of sense."

Paulsen's position is the Nats need to sign Rendon soon before he hits free agency.

"If I'm the Nats, Grant Lerner, I'm putting a $250 million offer in front of the guy today."


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Adam Eaton calls Todd Frazier ‘childish’ after the ex-teammates get into it again

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Adam Eaton calls Todd Frazier ‘childish’ after the ex-teammates get into it again

NEW YORK -- Normal is not something the Nationals do this season.

Monday’s pivot from the mundane -- an otherwise run-of-the-mill 5-3 baseball game -- came when Adam Eaton was jogging toward the visitors dugout in the bottom of the third inning when he stopped to respond to New York third baseman Todd Frazier, whom Eaton said was chirping at him all night.

This is not new. The two were teammates on the Chicago White Sox in 2016 and did not get along. Last year, Frazier and Eaton also had an exchange. The one Monday night at Citi Field prompted several members of the Nationals to hop over the dugout railing while Frazier and Eaton were being restrained near the first base bag. First base umpire Mike Estabrook cutoff Eaton who was walking toward Frazier after initially heading to the dugout following a 4-6-3 double play which ended the inning for the Nationals. When Frazier came toward the Mets dugout from his position at third base, the two began their spat.

Afterward, Frazier declined to comment in the Mets’ clubhouse, saying only, “It was nothing.” Eaton took the opportunity to expound on his displeasure with the incident, its continuation and Frazier himself.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Eaton said. “Gosh, who knows what goes through that guy’s mind? He’s chirping all the way across the infield. He must really like me, [because] he wants to get my attention it seems like every time we come into town, he really cares what I think about him. I don’t know what his deal is, if he wants to talk to me in person or have a visit or what it is. But he’s always yelling across the infield at me, making a habit of it.

“He’s one of those guys who always says it loud enough that you hear it but can’t understand it. So, he’s making a habit of it. I ignored him a couple times chirping coming across, but I had it to the point where I’m not going to say the saying I want to say but you got to be a man at some point. So, I turned around, had a few choice words with him. It’s funny, I was walking towards him, he didn’t really want to walk towards me but as soon as someone held him back then he was all of a sudden he was really impatient, like trying to get towards me. Just being Todd Frazier. What’s new?”

Asked if he is surprised such exchanges are still happening three years after they played together, Eaton said he was.

“Yes, absolutely,” Eaton said. “He’s very childish. I’m walking with my head down, play’s over, I’m walking away. I can still hear him. I’m a 30-year-old man with two kids, got a mortgage and everything. He wants to loud talk as he’s running off the field. At the end of the day, I got to be a man about it. I tried to stay patient with the childishness, but it is what it is. I got to stand up eventually.”

He did, and what could have been merely Game 47 for a struggling team turned out to be something else.