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Early offense leads to dominant NL All-Star victory

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Early offense leads to dominant NL All-Star victory

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Game in a nutshell: Who says the National League's lineup can't stack up to the American League's thunder? The Senior Circuit sure looked dominant in the top of the first inning tonight against perhaps the best pitcher on the planet, piling up five runs off Justin Verlander. Ryan Braun sent an RBI double off the right-field wall, then Pablo Sandoval(?!) legged out a three-run triple off the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner. A Dan Uggla RBI single capped off the five-run inning, and the NL still wasn't done. A three-run fourth off the Rangers' Matt Harrison (highlighted by Melky Cabrera's homer to left) made it 8-0 and gave the NL pitching staff plenty of cushion. Not that those guys needed any help. They mowed through the AL's fearsome lineup, with 11 pitches combining to toss a six-hit shutout. Nationals Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg each churned out one inning of relief to help the cause. Teammate Bryce Harper certainly made his presence known, though for more negative reasons than positive ones (see below). In the end, the NL happily took an lopsided victory. Which means Game 1 of this year's World Series cannot take place at Yankee Stadium, but it could take place at Nationals Park.

Harper highlight: He noted yesterday how awful he's been in previous All-Star games as an amateur or minor leaguer, and Harper continued that trend in his big-league All-Star debut. The 19-year-old did draw a walk in his first at-bat and showed off his hustle by tagging up from first base on a deep fly ball to left. But he was immediately caught in a rundown off second base, and he later suffered one of the more embarrassing moments in All-Star history when he lost a routine fly ball in the lights. Harper threw his arms out, clueless where the ball was, only to have it land 10 feet behind him. He also struck out on three pitches against A's rookie Ryan Cook. All in all, not a shining moment for the youngest position player in All-Star history.

Strasburg highlight: Handed the ball for the bottom of the fourth inning with his team up eight runs, Strasburg went to work against four of the most fearsome hitters he'll ever face in succession: Robinson Cano, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista and Prince Fielder. The flamethrower's stuff was good -- he fired in several 98 mph fastballs and a 90 mph changeup -- but his command was less than perfect. Strasburg gave up a leadoff single to Cano, got Hamilton to ground into a double play, then thought he had Bautista looking at a 3-2 curveball on the inside corner. Plate umpire Gerry Davis thought otherwise, so Strasburg had to face Fielder with two outs and a man on. Prince roped a drive to deep left field, but Ryan Braun made a nifty catch to end the inning and end Strasburg's All-Star debut with a scoreless inning in the books.

Gonzalez highlight: There was no drama to Gonzalez's one inning of work. The lefty entered for the bottom of the third and cruised through a 1-2-3 frame, showing off a 95 mph fastball and his trademark curve. That Uncle Charlie got Mike Napoli swinging for a strikeout. Gonzalez then got Curtis Granderson to fly out to left and Derek Jeter to ground out to second, completing a very efficient and very effective inning in the lefty's second All-Star appearance.

Up next: The Nationals' three All-Star participants get to spend a couple of days at home with family and friends. Then they'll rejoin their teammates Friday night in Miami for the season's second-half opener against the Marlins. Look for Drew Storen to make his season debut as well, assuming all goes well in his final rehab appearance Wednesday night.

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Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others