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Instant analysis: Nats 8, Mets 2


Instant analysis: Nats 8, Mets 2

Game in a nutshell: Jordan Zimmermann did his usual thing, allowing one run over six sparkling innings. And the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Bryce Harper's first home run since June 28. But they were silenced at the plate by the soft-tossing Chris Young after that, and some curious bullpen maneuvers by Davey Johnson in the bottom of the seventh -- Drew Storen only faced one batter before he was replaced by Michael Gonzalez, who gave up the game-tying homer to Ike Davis -- prevented Zimmermann from earning his eighth win. The game wound up in extra innings, at which point a Nationals lineup that had been stagnant almost the entire night suddenly sprung to life in spectacular fashion. In succession in the top of the 10th, Harper laced an RBI single, Ryan Zimmerman cleared the bases with a double and Michael Morse launched a 2-run homer. How often do you see a team win in extra innings by 6 runs? Well, the Nats just did it. And thanks to the Braves' loss in Miami, they now lead the NL East by 4 12 games.

Hitting highlight: When the Nationals opened the bottom of the first with three hits off Young, including Harper's two-run homer, they looked poised to pick up where they left off during yesterday's 9-run explosion. Then they were completely wiped out by a right-hander with an 84-mph fastball. Young didn't give up another hit through the seventh inning, when he finally departed. It was a weak offensive showing from a lineup that had been red-hot, against a pitcher who clearly didn't have overwhelming stuff. Yet that all felt insignificant in the top of the 10th. Harper, Zimmerman and Morse completely changed the storyline, each crushing a pitch from Pedro Beato with more authority than the previous one. Pretty remarkable how a team can go from what looked like a feeble performance at the plate to a dominant one.

Pitching highlight: Leave it to Mr. Consistency to do what he always does: Pitch six quality innings. For the 20th time in 20 starts this season, Zimmermann went at least six. And for the 12th time in those 20 starts, he allowed zero or one earned run. Zimmermann's lone mistake: a solo homer by David Wright in the bottom of the fourth. Otherwise, he was effective as always, needing a respectable 89 pitches to complete those six innings. He easily could have gone deeper, but Johnson decided to pinch-hit for Zimmermann in the top of the seventh, a move that wound up backfiring when Tyler Moore struck out and

Key stat: Zimmermann entered the game throwing 68 percent of his pitches for strikes, the fourth-best rate in the majors this season. And he topped that mark tonight, throwing 73 percent of his pitches (65 of 89) for strikes.

Up next: Game 2 of the series features a rematch of what last week figured to be a great pitchers' duel between Gio Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey. Gonzalez, though, will have to bounce back after the shortest start of his season: only 3 13 innings. First pitch at Citi Field is at 7:10 p.m.

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This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to have: A talented outfield led by Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton. A rising superstar at shortstop in Trea Turner. A possibly major hole at closer.

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to not have: Razors. Shaving cream. A desire to groom their faces.

A fun tradition at each team's spring training is the annual photo day, because photo day forces professional athletes to pose in front of cameras like they're being featured in the poster of an upcoming blockbuster movie. And after poring through the snapshots from the Nationals' photo day, a single trend emerged.

This year's team is a hairy bunch.

Among that bunch are the usual suspects, such as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth:

But there are some surprises, most notably of which is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander tends to keep his mug 100-percent clean-shaven, but for now, at least, he's allowed his face to become quite fertile:

Then there's newcomer Adam Lind, who has a goatee that Duke's Blue Devil logo would be forced to respect:

Shawn Kelley, meanwhile, who's pictured below, has a beard that looks like...

...Derek Norris' beard, before Derek Norris' beard hit puberty and grew up to be the strong, mature beard it is today:

There are scraggly ones, such as Daniel Murphy's:

And fuller, more complete ones, like Eaton's (full marks, by the way, for the trade acquisition's ability to seamlessly connect 'stache to beard):

The most wild photo of all, however, was this one of Turner. Is this the Nats stud, or a picture of Leonard DiCaprio from a scene in The Revenant? Hard to tell with all that stubble the infielder's cultivating:

One potential positive of this team-wide movement: If Turner and his teammates keep what they're growing down in Florida going throughout the season, their faces will be plenty warm by the time playoff baseball comes around. 


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Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year