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Dusty Baker wants to finish season strong, fall to Phillies


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.


"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.


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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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. 


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.


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.