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Under pressure, Rodriguez keeps cool


Under pressure, Rodriguez keeps cool

PITTSBURGH -- For all the good that took place from the Nationals' perspective last night at PNC Park, from Stephen Strasburg's 13 strikeouts to Roger Bernadina and Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel's home runs, there was a moment that had to leave everyone wondering whether disaster was about to strike.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Henry Rodriguez fired a 2-2 fastball to the Neil Walker on the inside corner and the got the Pirates second baseman to whiff at the 98 mph heater.

Except the ball got past catcher Jesus Flores, so Walker took off for first base. And though it appeared Adam LaRoche made a juggling catch of Flores' one-hopper a nanosecond before Walker's foot hit the bag, umpire Greg Gibson ruled him safe.

All of a sudden, the Pirates had the tying run at the plate, and the Nationals couldn't help but wonder whether they were about to see history repeat itself.

"We strike a guy out, and the guy gets on," manager Davey Johnson said. "I'm saying: 'Oh, my goodness, here we go again.'"

The Nationals had seen Rodriguez do this only two nights earlier, blowing a ninth-inning lead in spectacular fashion with two wild pitches and a walk-off homer in the span of about 90 seconds. But if everyone inside the visiting dugout was nervous, the man on the mound insists he wasn't.

"It's just part of the game," Flores said, interpreting for Rodriguez. "He was focused to face the other guy and make good pitches."

Rodriguez rebounded to close out the game. He got Garrett Jones to fly out to right field. Then he got Casey McGehee to ground out to second.

Game over. A 4-2 win in the books. And Rodriguez's seventh save in nine tries secured.

"That was a good confidence boost," LaRoche said. "He needed that. He's one of those guys, I don't think he shows a whole lot of emotion. But you can tell when you sit and talk with him, he wants to win as bad as anybody. He wants the ball in the ninth. He wants to be the guy to save games for us. And I think part of it is trying too hard. So if he can settle down and throw 99 instead of 103, we're all fine with that."

Actually, Rodriguez didn't throw any of his 12 fastballs last night more than 98 mph. That's still plenty hard, but it is a tick or two below his usual radar gun readings.

Most importantly, the 25-year-old flamethrower emerged feeling better about himself. For that, he wanted to thank his manager, who stuck with him in the wake of Tuesday night's debacle.

"He appreciates the confidence from the manager," Flores said, again interpreting for Rodriguez. "He wants to do it well. He wants to win the game. And it was a good thing that we did it tonight."

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Strasburg, Nats bats power past Cubs 8-4

Strasburg, Nats bats power past Cubs 8-4

Stephen Strasburg struck out 13 in seven innings, Bryce Harper had two doubles and two RBIs, and the Washington Nationals beat the Chicago Cubs 8-4 on Wednesday night.

Anthony Rendon and Matt Wieters hit back-to-back homers against John Lackey (5-9) during Washington's four-run second inning. After the Cubs pulled within three at 6-3, Daniel Murphy went deep in the fifth.

It was a rough day for the Cubs, who cut veteran catcher Miguel Montero after he criticized pitcher Jake Arrieta for his role in the Nationals' seven steals in Tuesday's 6-1 win over the World Series champions. Then reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant departed with an apparent right ankle injury.

Bryant awkwardly clipped third base while catching a foul pop off the bat of Wieters in the sixth. He walked around gingerly before being helped off the field.

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Did Bryce Harper just hint at his future with this Instagram caption?

Did Bryce Harper just hint at his future with this Instagram caption?

With Bryce Harper's free agency approaching in 2018, the Nationals slugger has kept his options open as everyone is speculating about where he'll end up when his contract with the Nats has come to an end.

From the Yankees to the Cubs, the rumor mill simply isn't stopping. And, perhaps, another clue about his plans has appeared.

Before Tuesday night's matchup against the Cubs, Harper posted an Instagram with his wife, Kayla, along with childhood friend and Cubs third baseman, Kris Bryant, and Bryant's wife, Jess.

That was nothing unusual as the pair grew up playing baseball together in their hometown of Las Vegas. However, the caption is what stuck out.


"Just two Vegas boys living out our dream with the ones we love! This is what it's all about..What a time to be alive🙌🏻#MLB #702 #Back2BackOneDay"

Social media went into a frenzy over what seemed like an allusion to Harper's future: he wants to eventually join back up with his childhood buddy Kris Bryant, just like the good ol' days. 

Adding to the worry is that Harper's dog is named Wrigley. 

Are the Cubs a shoo-in for Bryce Harper with the appeal of his childhood best friend and his dog's name?

Could this allusion mean heading up the windy city and a reunion for Harper and his pal?

Did Harper just hint at his future with the Cubs with an Instagram hashtag?