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Nats can't shine on big stage

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Nats can't shine on big stage

For nearly five hours, Bryce Harper had flailed away at pitches out of the zone, taken borderline strikes and glared at plate umpire Tim Timmons and otherwise looked exactly like a 19-year-old overwhelmed to be in the big leagues.

Yet when the Nationals' rookie stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 14th inning late Saturday afternoon, every remaining soul among the once-sellout crowd of 41,287 couldn't help but dream about how Harper's otherwise awful game might end in dramatic fashion.

Even the players wearing the road uniforms admitted the thought crossed their minds.

"It's like one of those kind of storybook endings; you're hoping it wasn't going to be," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "That would've just been too good to be true, for Harper to hit a walk-off right there. The place might've fallen down."

Harper didn't hit a walk-off, and the place did not fall down. With a routine groundball to second on the first pitch he saw from New York closer Rafael Soriano, Harper completed a miserable, 0-for-7, five-strikeout day and officially sealed the Nationals' frustrating 5-3, extra-inning loss.

There were plenty of defining moments in this game, countless opportunities for the Nationals to push across the one run they needed to pull out a victory and some controversial calls that cost them along the way. But it was Harper's performance -- by far his worst in seven weeks as a big leaguer -- that left everyone shaking their heads by day's end.

It wasn't just that Harper struck out five times. It was the surprising manner in which he consistently chased pitches out of the strike zone from Andy Pettitte and three Yankees relievers. It was the disgusted look and words he directed toward Timmons after questionable calls. And it was the uncharacteristic lack of composure from a player who to date has relished every opportunity to star on the big stage.

"I thought he probably was really amped up," manager Davey Johnson said. "He came in there against Pettitte, and I've never seen him swing at balls out of the zone. He was chasing balls. Got in that mode where (he was) trying to make something happen. That's part of the youth."

Harper declined to comment after the game, saying "I don't want to talk." Teammates tried to offer the rookie reassurance.

"Shake it off," first baseman Adam LaRoche told him. "It's not the last time you're going to have a bad game. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of bad games because you're playing for a long time. Shake it off and hurt them tomorrow."

This will be a tough game for the entire Nationals roster to shake off, a second straight loss to the American League's best team and one that was eminently winnable.

The Nationals gave the Yankees an unearned run during a sloppy fourth inning that featured one official error (by shortstop Ian Desmond) and two other miscues (a blooper to shallow left field that fell untouched, a missed scoop at first base by Tyler Moore on what should have been an inning-ending double play).

Jordan Zimmermann gave the Yankees two runs in the sixth, turning a slim lead into a slim deficit.

For a moment in the bottom of the eighth, though, the Nationals thought they had retaken the lead and were three outs from victory. Desmond's homer off reliever Cory Wade tied the game 3-3, and shortly after Moore came scampering around the bases on LaRoche's pinch-hit single to right.

As catcher Russell Martin hauled in the throw from DeWayne Wise, Moore attempted a headfirst slide, brushing his left hand across the plate. Timmons, though, called Moore out on the bang-bang play, and it wasn't clear until after the fact that Moore's hand had narrowly beaten Martin's tag.

"I thought I got in there," Moore said. "But you know, I haven't seen the replay yet. It's just unfortunate it didn't go our way."

"We had other opportunities to win that ballgame," Desmond said.

Indeed they did, thanks in large part to some brilliant relief work from Ross Detwiler, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and Craig Stammen, who combined to toss seven scoreless, hitless innings against one of the most-feared lineups in baseball.

But through it all, the Nationals lineup was unable to push across the winning run, going a collective 0-for-15 with five strikeouts from the ninth through the 13th innings.

So the game entered the 14th, at which point Johnson handed the ball to Brad Lidge, less than 24 hours removed from a shaky outing that contributed to a series-opening, 7-2 loss. The veteran right-hander was plagued Friday night by a seeing-eye, infield single, and he couldn't believe his misfortune when the same thing happened again Saturday. Jayson Nix led off with a single to deep shortstop. Derek Jeter then added a grounder through the left-side hole.

"I'm in a bit of bad luck right know where they're kind of hitting them where they ain't," Lidge said. "They're the groundballs you want, but they're hit perfectly between guys. It's tough, but you just try to do the best you can to get out of it."

Lidge did strike out Curtis Granderson, but he then left a 2-1 slider over the plate and watched as Teixeira laced it down the right-field line for the two-run double that gave the Yankees the lead for good and raised Lidge's ERA to an unsightly 9.64.

The Nationals nearly bailed him out in the bottom of the 14th thanks to one-out singles from Jesus Flores and Steve Lombardozzi. But Danny Espinosa flied out to right and Harper couldn't summon any magic to erase his dreadful afternoon and lift his team to an inspiring victory.

Suddenly, the Nationals' six-game winning streak has morphed into a two-game losing streak. And the most-anticipated series in the team's brief history has already been won by the Yankees, who will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon against a young ballclub that has to learn how to brush off a pair of demoralizing losses.

"Right now, obviously they seem bad," Lidge said. "These games are magnified. But at the end of the season, these are two of 162 games we play. They're regular-season games. And hopefully, if nothing else, we can learn from whatever we take from these two games and get better from it."

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Nationals, MLB betting odds and prop bets for 2017 season

Nationals, MLB betting odds and prop bets for 2017 season

Sports Betting Dime released betting odds and prop bets for the 2017 MLB season this week.

According to the sports book, the Nationals, in particular, sit well in their chances to win the World Series, as well as to have the NL MVP in Bryce Harper and the NL Cy Young Award winner in Max Scherzer.

Harper, at 5/1, also has the best odds to have the largest home run increase of any player in Major League Baseball this season among players who hit a minimum of 20 a year ago.

The Nationals and Orioles, for what it’s worth, also have 199/1 odds – sixth best – to meet each other in the World Series. The Orioles have 50/1 odds to win it in general.

But there’s also some interesting prop bets, as well, namely a number of things involving former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who has been assigned to the Mets’ low Class A affiliate to begin the season.

For a full list of odds and props, click here.

RELATED: Donald Trump will not throw out Nationals Opening Day first pitch

Odds to win World Series

Chicago Cubs: 11/2

Cleveland Indians: 8/1

Boston Red Sox: 9/1

Los Angeles Dodgers: 9/1

Washington Nationals: 14/1

Baltimore Orioles: 50/1

Odds to meet in the 2017 World Series

Cubs-Indians: 13/1

Cubs-Red Sox: 16/1

Cubs-Yankees: 66/1

Mets-Yankees: 195/1

Dodgers-Angels: 166/1

Orioles-Nationals: 199/1

National League MVP

Kris Bryant (Cubs): 6/1

Bryce Harper (Nationals): 7/1

Corey Seager (Dodgers): 9/1

Nolan Arenado (Rockies): 9/1

Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 2/1

Max Scherzer (Nationals): 5/1

Noah Syndergaard (Mets): 8/1

National League Cy Young Award

Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 2/1

Max Scherzer (Nationals): 5/1

Noah Syndergaard (Mets): 8/1

Odds at least one player hits 50-plus home runs: 7/4

Over/under number of players to hit 40-plus home runs: 6.5

Odds Tim Tebow …

--gets an at bat for the Mets this season: 250/1

--retires or is released before the end of the 2017 World Series: 2/1

--over/under career MLB home runs for Tim Tebow: 0.5

Odds to have the largest home run increase from 2016 (minimum 20 HRs):

Bryce Harper (Nationals; 24 in 2016): 5/1

Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins; 27): 11/2

Gary Sanchez (Yankees; 20): 7/1

Jose Bautista (Blue Jays; 22): 9/1

Jose Abreu (White Sox; 24): 9/1

Odds Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez announce their engagement in 2017: 3/1

RELATED: 10 insane ballpark foods you'll find in 2017

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Donald Trump will not throw out Nationals Opening Day first pitch

Donald Trump will not throw out Nationals Opening Day first pitch

One of the most iconic moments in sports is when the President of the United States throws out a first pitch at a baseball game. In fact, every president dating back to William Taft in 1910 has thrown at least one Opening Day ceremonial first pitch during their time in office. 

At least for this year, Donald Trump will not join that long lists of presidents. 

According to Bryon Kerr, President Trump will not partake in the tradition due to scheduling conflicts.

Traditionally the ceremonial first pitch by presidents has been done on Opening Day, but also there have been presidents that have thrown the first pitch at the All-Star Game, and even during the World Series; none was perhaps more memorable that George W. Bush's first pitch in the 2001 World Series. 

Regularly presidents have thrown out the first pitch on Opening Day, but it is not uncommon for presidents to miss out on one of baseball's sacred days. George W. Bush only threw the Opening Day pitch in six of his eight years as president. He would also throw a Ceremonial first pitch in 2009, his first year out of office. Barack Obama would only throw one Opening Day first pitch and that was in 2010 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the now forgotten tradition. 

Before his presidency, President Trump has thrown one first pitch to start a baseball game. It was during the 2006 regular season at Fenway Park. 

RELATED: Tim Tebow strikes out in three pitches from Max Sherzer