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Bad time for Strasburg's clunker

Bad time for Strasburg's clunker

When he struck out 10 Braves over six brilliant innings last week, everyone wondered if the Nationals really would shut down Stephen Strasburg in the middle of a pennant race.

And when he was tagged for seven runs over five suspect innings last night, everyone suddenly wondered if the Nationals might just shut down their young ace on the spot.

The man who ultimately will make this decision, thankfully, isn't quite as impulsive as fans, media members and the various experts out there ranging from John Smoltz to Terry Bradshaw who all believe they know what's best for Strasburg.

Mike Rizzo wasn't going to prolong Strasburg's season based on one dominant start, and he's not going to cut it short based on one lousy outing.

But make no mistake, it was a lousy outing: seven runs (five earned) on nine hits in only five innings. He exhibited no command of his fastball, couldn't adjust to the Marlins' aggressive approach against him and on more than one occasion lost focus with runners on base. (Letting 36-year-old, 270-pound Carlos Lee steal second without even drawing a throw? Unacceptable.)

Worse was that Strasburg picked the absolute worst time to author the biggest clunker of his career, with the Nationals stuck in a four-game losing streak and desperately needing a win over the last-place Marlins to get themselves back on track.

Instead, Strasburg kick-started the Nationals' worst loss of the season, a 9-0 trouncing that extended this team's skid to five games and moved everybody one step closer to declaring a state of emergency for a ballclub that has avoided adversity all season.

Is it time to panic? No, not yet. It's a five-game losing streak, but the Nationals still hold a comfortable position atop the NL East and haven't let the Braves gain too much ground on them.

But the time to stop the bleeding is now. Another loss in tonight's series finale in Miami would leave the skid at six games and would probably send the Nationals into a tough weekend series with the contending Cardinals with a sense of doubt about themselves for the first time in a long time.

Ross Detwiler: Time to step up and show you can be counted on to win big games down the stretch and beyond.

As for Strasburg, time to put this disaster of a start in the rear-view mirror and focus on Sunday's big outing against St. Louis. The Nationals have no intention of shutting him down after that game -- Davey Johnson has indicated he'll make at least two, maybe three more starts beyond that one -- but he certainly doesn't want to hit his home stretch on a sour note.

Strasburg called last night's game "a big learning experience for me" when speaking to reporters afterward. We'll find out Sunday what exactly the young right-hander learned from the worst start of his career and how he applies it to his next outing.

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Nationals Game 5 meltdown yet another reminder why D.C. can't have nice things

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Nationals Game 5 meltdown yet another reminder why D.C. can't have nice things

On Thursday night, a Washington, D.C. pro sports team did something Washington, D.C. pro sports teams are very good at doing: fall short of making a league or championship game.

The Nationals' disastrous fifth inning against the Cubs in Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series was the beginning of the end, not to mention yet another in a long line of disappointing playoff results for Washington, D.C. sports teams.

You see, Washington, D.C. is the only city with at least three major pro sports teams to not have a single one make a conference or league championship game since 2000.

To make matters worse, Washington, D.C. sports teams have now lost 16 consecutive playoff games in which a win would've advanced the team to the conference or league championship. 

Think about that for a second. Four teams. Zero conference championship appearances since 1998. 

Here's the list.

Washington, D.C. sports fans are not greedy. We can't be. We've had some very good teams recently, with the type of talent, coaching and intangibles needed to win a championship. 

TRY THIS: 20 THINGS DC SPORTS FANS SHOULD BE HAPPY ABOUT. YES, HAPPY.

The last time a major Washington, D.C. pro sports team won a world championship was in 1992 when the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI.  The last time a major Washington, D.C. pro sports team even made a conference championship game was in 1998, when the Capitals advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, defeating the Sabres to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Washington, D.C. isn't allowed to have nice sports things.

Sure, we have great players and great teams, but when the playoffs roll around, all the nice things go away. We aren't privy to plucky upstarts who run the table and we aren't privy to dominant teams that make long postseason runs.

Washington, D.C. will have its day, eventually. Sure it may only be a conference championship appearance, but for us, that's fine. We don't expect world championships. We just want something to get invested in.

Early playoff exits are rarely worth the investment.

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With contractual decisions looming, Nats missed chance at stress-free World Series run

With contractual decisions looming, Nats missed chance at stress-free World Series run

"This is the year."

That's the motto for almost every D.C. sports fan when their team is headed for the postseason.

The Nats led a weak NL East the entire season and clinched a spot to play October baseball early into September.

RELATED: COUNTLESS ERRORS DOOM NATIONALS IN SEASON-ENDING LOSS

The team overcame the obstacle of being plagued with injuries and with pitchers like Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer having a strong bullpen to back them up, the stars were aligning for the team to go all the way.

But now with players like Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy having contracts up for grabs in 2019, Nationals reporter Chelsea Janes says 2017 was really the last chance for the team to win a stress-free title.

"I think those questions you've raised like Bryce [Harper's] contract, [Daniel} Murphy may be leaving, you know Rizzo's contract's up after next year, I think those are the things they didn't have to deal with this year that made this such a free chance," Janes said on the Sports Junkies Friday.

"It was a free chance to just feel good and do it now and not have everyone say this is your absolute last chance, and next year it's their absolute last chance for a little while, I think."

"I mean they're not going to be awful in '19, but they're going to be different and I think they've sort of wasted their free pass here and there's legitimate and kind of unrelenting pressure on them next year to make it happen."

It's hard to make sense of what a team will look like one day after a devastating series loss. One thing that is fairly certain is that time is ticking for the Nats to make it happen with arguably the most talented group of players they've ever had.