In the middle of a seven-game winning streak, the Atlanta Braves have emerged as the Nationals' biggest threat in the National League East. They are still three games back from Washington in the division, but may have found a secret weapon for the season's second half.
On Sunday afternoon Atlanta threw out right-hander Ben Sheets for his first major league start since July 19, 2010. Sheets was facing the N.L.'s fourth highest-scoring offense in the New York Mets and allowed zero runs and just two hits through six innings of work. The 34 year old was signed to a minor league deal two weeks ago after his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Sheets was a four-time All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers, but has battled major injuries over the last four seasons. He missed the 2008 postseason and all of 2009 with elbow problems, came back for 20 starts with Oakland in 2010, and then missed all of 2011 and the first half of this season after having Tommy John.
One solid game doesn't mean that Sheets has regained his All-Star form, but the Braves have been riding a surging offense to their recent wins. Pitching has been their weak point, especially with the loss of Brandon Beachy, and a boost to their rotation would be ideal.
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
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.
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