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Bad time for Strasburg's clunker

Bad time for Strasburg's clunker

When he struck out 10 Braves over six brilliant innings last week, everyone wondered if the Nationals really would shut down Stephen Strasburg in the middle of a pennant race.

And when he was tagged for seven runs over five suspect innings last night, everyone suddenly wondered if the Nationals might just shut down their young ace on the spot.

The man who ultimately will make this decision, thankfully, isn't quite as impulsive as fans, media members and the various experts out there ranging from John Smoltz to Terry Bradshaw who all believe they know what's best for Strasburg.

Mike Rizzo wasn't going to prolong Strasburg's season based on one dominant start, and he's not going to cut it short based on one lousy outing.

But make no mistake, it was a lousy outing: seven runs (five earned) on nine hits in only five innings. He exhibited no command of his fastball, couldn't adjust to the Marlins' aggressive approach against him and on more than one occasion lost focus with runners on base. (Letting 36-year-old, 270-pound Carlos Lee steal second without even drawing a throw? Unacceptable.)

Worse was that Strasburg picked the absolute worst time to author the biggest clunker of his career, with the Nationals stuck in a four-game losing streak and desperately needing a win over the last-place Marlins to get themselves back on track.

Instead, Strasburg kick-started the Nationals' worst loss of the season, a 9-0 trouncing that extended this team's skid to five games and moved everybody one step closer to declaring a state of emergency for a ballclub that has avoided adversity all season.

Is it time to panic? No, not yet. It's a five-game losing streak, but the Nationals still hold a comfortable position atop the NL East and haven't let the Braves gain too much ground on them.

But the time to stop the bleeding is now. Another loss in tonight's series finale in Miami would leave the skid at six games and would probably send the Nationals into a tough weekend series with the contending Cardinals with a sense of doubt about themselves for the first time in a long time.

Ross Detwiler: Time to step up and show you can be counted on to win big games down the stretch and beyond.

As for Strasburg, time to put this disaster of a start in the rear-view mirror and focus on Sunday's big outing against St. Louis. The Nationals have no intention of shutting him down after that game -- Davey Johnson has indicated he'll make at least two, maybe three more starts beyond that one -- but he certainly doesn't want to hit his home stretch on a sour note.

Strasburg called last night's game "a big learning experience for me" when speaking to reporters afterward. We'll find out Sunday what exactly the young right-hander learned from the worst start of his career and how he applies it to his next outing.

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Nationals avoid arbitration, reach deal with Bryce Harper and three others

Nationals avoid arbitration, reach deal with Bryce Harper and three others

The Washington Nationals avoided arbitration and agreed to one-year deals today with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Tanner Roark and newly acquired catcher Derek Norris.

If team's and players didn't agree to contracts by today's 1 p.m. ET deadline, an independent arbitrator will rule on the contract at a later date and decide how much the player will play for in 2017. 

Harper and the Nationals agreed to a $13.625 million deal, which was significantly more than the $9.3 million contract that was projected by MLB Trade Rumors. Last season, coming off his 2015 MVP campaign, Harper made $5 million. The 24-year-old will be a free agent after the 2018 season. 

Harper is coming off a disappointing season by his standards, in which he hit just .243 with 24 homers, which was way down from his total of 42 dingers in 2015. 

According to multiple reports, Rendon signed for $5.8 million, Roark signed for $4.315 million and Norris' deal was for $4.2 million.

Roark made just $543,400 last season, which he vastly out-performed. Roark was one of the most consistent pitchers in the National League last year as he won 16 games and posted a 2.83 ERA in 210 innings of work. 

With today's signings, all of the Nationals' arbitration-eligible players are under contract for 2017. 

Related: Tanner Roark to replace Max Scherzer on World Baseball Classic roster

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LOOK: Bryce Harper got married in suit jacket lined with pictures of wife

LOOK: Bryce Harper got married in suit jacket lined with pictures of wife

Nationals star Bryce Harper has a bold fashion sense, that's for sure. Just take a look at that hair. But he a more romantic fashion risk for his own wedding with a custom suit jacket. 

He opted for a navy blue tuxedo with black piping. It was the lining that really stood out as special. 

If you look closely, you'll see photos of Harper and his wife, Kayla, decorating the lining of the jacket. 

There's also the date of wedding and script reading "Mr. and Mrs. Harper." 

He credited the makers of his tuxedo, Stitched, in the tweet. 

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals’ Bryce Harper ecstatic to see bride on wedding day