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Dusty Baker wants to finish season strong, fall to Phillies

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Dusty Baker wants to finish season strong, fall to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- At some point, Dusty Baker will sit down and start thinking about the Chicago Cubs.

That wasn't the main topic on the Washington Nationals manager's mind Wednesday night.

"My thoughts are to finish the season strong, then to worry about Chicago," Baker said after falling by a 7-5 margin to the Philadelphia Phillies. "We want to finish strong and to go into the new season with some momentum."

For the Nationals, who clinched the NL East more than two weeks ago, Wednesday's most significant action occurred in St. Louis. That's where the Cubs beat the Cardinals to wrap up the NL Central and ensure they will play Washington in the NL Division Series starting Oct. 6.

Washington won four of the seven games against the Cubs in the regular season.

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"It will be fun," said Washington starter Tanner Roark, an Illinois native who could possibly start Game 4 of the Division Series at Wrigley Field. "It will be loud."

Roark (13-11) struggled with command, walking five hitters and allowing six earned runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.

"I just didn't feel like I had anything," Roark said. "I was battling myself to throw strikes. They took advantage of some fastballs. It was one of those games."

Michael A. Taylor homered among his three hits for Washington. Trea Turner reached base all five times and recorded his 44th stolen base of the season.

Bryce Harper went 1 for 4 with a single and scored a run in his second game since returning from the disabled list with hyperextended left knee.

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For the Phillies, Aaron Altherr tied the game at 5 with a triple in the fifth. He later scored on Odubel Herrera's double.

Rookie Yacksel Rios (1-0) got his first career victory, getting two outs in the fifth in relief of starter Mark Leiter Jr.

Phillies relievers threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings after throwing four perfect innings in Tuesday's win.

Hector Neris worked a perfect ninth for his 20th consecutive save conversion and 26th in 29 opportunities overall. It is the most for a Phillies reliever since Brad Lidge converted all 41 save opportunities during the 2008 season.

In their last 30 games dating back to Aug. 27, Phillies reliever have posted a 2.52 ERA.

"I'm proud of the guys, the fact that they play hard the entire season in my opinion," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We just didn't have the offense clicking the first half and that was part of our problems. But in the second half things started clicking. We started playing better baseball."

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

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Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.

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He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

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