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An eventful All-Star win for Nats


An eventful All-Star win for Nats

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sure, there was that routine flyball Bryce Harper never saw amid the Kansas City twilight, a botched play that will show up on All-Star blooper reels for decades to come.

"It didn't hit me in the head," Harper cracked. "So I think I'm doing OK."

He's doing more than OK. So what if the 19-year-old's first All-Star Game was less than his finest hour on a baseball field? Those few hiccups paled in comparison to his overall experience over a whirlwind 48 hours.

And considering teammates Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez did their part to help lead the National League to an 8-0 drubbing of the American League in the 83rd Midsummer Classic -- thus ensuring home-field advantage for the NL champion in this year's World Series -- there wasn't much anyone wearing a curly W cap could be upset about at the end of the night.

"That's huge for any team that's in there, and hopefully it's us," Harper said. "But we're a long ways away. We're in first place right now, but we've got a long season ahead of us. ... Hopefully we can keep it going in the second half, in the playoffs, and keep it going deep into October and November."

What would have been a ludicrous notion during any of the previous six All-Star Games was very much a factor during this exhibition at Kauffman Stadium. Thanks to Tuesday night's NL victory, Game 1 of the World Series cannot be held at Yankee Stadium. But it could be held at Nationals Park.

"No comment on that one," Gonzalez said with an impish grin. "I'm just going to smile about it and wave. That's it."

If the previously unthinkable does happen, the Nationals can thank a surprisingly explosive NL lineup that scored five runs off Justin Verlander in the top of the first and then added three more off Matt Harrison in the top of the fourth.

But they can also thank their co-aces, who each churned out a scoreless inning of relief to aid the over cause. Gonzalez and Strasburg aren't used to pitching out of the bullpen, and the sight of the two of them watching the game's first two innings from behind the right field fence was odd.

Once each hurler reached the mound, it was all business. Gonzalez cruised through the bottom of the third, retiring the side on 11 pitches and striking out Mike Napoli on a wicked curveball. Strasburg followed him in the bottom of the fourth, and though he surrendered a leadoff single to Robinson Cano and then issued a two-out walk to Jose Bautista, he emerged unscathed thanks to a double-play grounder off Josh Hamilton's bat and a lineout to left from Prince Fielder.

Cano. Hamilton. Bautista. Fielder. That's as fearsome a foursome as any pitcher can face in succession in today's game. Not that Strasburg was daunted by it.

"I love the challenge," he said. "It was great. Gio finished up a good inning, and I knew I was going to be going in there facing the middle of the lineup guys. It was great to get the opportunity to face them. Me being in the National League, I don't know when I'll be able to face them again."

Moments after Strasburg finished his one inning of work, Harper stepped to the plate for the first time, in the process becoming the youngest position player ever to appear in an All-Star Game. His evening got off to a positive start when he drew a walk off Harrison and then tagged up from first base on a flyout to deep left field.

Then things began to turn sour for the rookie outfielder. He was caught in a rundown off second base. He struck out looking at an 0-2 pitch from Athletics rookie Ryan Cook in the seventh inning. And, of course, there was that mishap in left field, with Harper throwing his arms out in confusion as Napoli's routine fly ball landed 10 feet behind him.

It wasn't the first time that's happened to Harper. He misplayed a similar ball in right field in Cincinnati earlier this season.

"Nothing you could do about it," he said with a shrug. "It happens. I wasn't really bummed out. I don't even care. It's going to happen probably 40 more times in my career, so ... whatever."

Harper's final boxscore line will show he went 0-for-1 with a walk and a strikeout. It won't show the misplayed fly ball. It also won't show all the fun he had meeting George Brett and Frank Robinson and hanging out with Chipper Jones and receiving words of wisdom from Tony La Russa.

That, in the end, is what Harper will remember most. Along with the feeling of pride he experienced when he stood along the third-base line, next to Strasburg and Gonzalez, introduced for the first time as an All-Star.

"I think that's when it started sinking in a little bit," he said. "It was a lot of fun to come out and be able to be around here and be around the best guys in baseball and really take it in."

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Nationals 2017 promotional giveaways include snow globes and fedoras

Nationals 2017 promotional giveaways include snow globes and fedoras

The Washington Nationals recently released the dates of their promotional days and giveaways this season, and there are some real gems in this schedule.

Among the standard bobblehead giveaways — Daniel Murphy on April 14, Trea Turner on May 12 and Tanner Roark on June 9 — and the highly recommended Pups in the Park days — April 29, May 13, June 10, June 25, September 7 and September 30 — pick the right game and you could get a snow globe, an American flag shirt or even a fedora. Seriously.

On May 24’s game against the Mariners, the first 25,000 fans will get a Max Scherzer snow globe, which has the potential to be the coolest knickknack in your house. Or on June 14 against the Braves — oddly not closer to the Fourth of July — Budweiser is behind the first 15,000 21-and-up fans getting an American flag tank top.

But truly the most unique item on this list is the Nationals-themed fedora, which will go to the first 25,000 fans at the Brewers’ July 26 matchup. How the Nats landed on this promotional item remains a mystery, but if you like hats beyond a traditional baseball cap, this is the game to attend.

Other cool or oddball promotions include the Nats Magic 8-Ball game April 3, the Chewbacca Koozie day May 27, Bryce Harper action figure day August 29 and Oktoberfest beer stein day Sept. 29.

Here's the complete list of the team's promotional days and giveaways

MORE NATS: Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well in 2016

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Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper struggled by his standards in 2016 and he says he know why it happened last year. While it was rumored last season that he was playing through injuries, Harper never really missed significant time, nor did he really say that his injuries were the reason for his disappointing numbers. 

Speaking with the media today at spring training, Harper hinted at his injuries from last season as he said he was just trying to stay in the lineup every day.  

Although Harper's statistics dropped off dramatically from his MVP season in 2015, his numbers weren't entirely awful last year. He still hit 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and he had an .814 OPS. 

With a full offseason to heal up, Harper will be a prime bounce-back candidate as he looks to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in the last four years. 

Related: Sorry D.C. sports fans, Bryce Harper is a Dallas Cowboys fan