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Instant analysis: Braves 4, Nats 0

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Instant analysis: Braves 4, Nats 0

Game in a nutshell: Only 13 12 hours removed from a crushing, 11-10 loss, the Nationals took the field for the first half of their day-night doubleheader with the Braves needing a strong performance from starter Edwin Jackson. They got it, with Jackson tossing seven innings of one-run ball, Brian McCann's solo homer in the second the only blemish. But Ben Sheets was even better for Atlanta, tossing six scoreless innings in his second big-league start since 2010. Another Henry Rodriguez meltdown resulted in an insurance run in the eighth. And then Chipper Jones' towering, pinch-hit blast in the ninth put the Nationals in a 4-0 hole they could not escape. Just like that, their lead in the NL East is down to 1 12 games, with John Lannan now asked to reverse the trend in the upcoming nightcap. Oh, and Bryce Harper had to leave this game after fouling a bunt attempt off his left ankle in the first inning. Suffice it to say, this wasn't a good afternoon.

Hitting lowlight: It's not that the Nationals didn't have chances against Sheets or the Braves bullpen. It's that they couldn't come through with any hits in clutch situations. They were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position over the first six innings. Then when presented with a possible opportunity in the seventh when the score was still only 1-0, Jesus Flores popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt and then watched as Kris Medlen snagged it and whipped a throw to first base to double up Danny Espinosa in a crushing moment. For a lineup that has been raking at the plate for about three weeks now, this was a weak performance.

Pitching highlight: On a day the Nationals desperately needed him to put forth a quality start, Jackson delivered. The right-hander allowed one run in seven innings, matching his season-high with nine strikeouts and most importantly churning out enough innings to give the Nats' bullpen a much-needed breather. Jackson's only mistake: his 0-1 pitch to McCann in the top of the second, which wound up in the right-field bleachers. But you can't fault him for his overall performance. Jackson didn't just pitch well, he pitched well on a day he absolutely needed to do it.

Key stat: Sheets, who hadn't pitched in the big leagues since 2010, has now thrown 12 scoreless innings for the Braves.

Up next: This long day of baseball isn't over yet. John Lannan takes the mound at 7:05 p.m. to make his first big-league start of the season, with right-hander Randall Delgado pitching for the Braves in the nightcap of this doubleheader. And then the Wallflowers will take the field to perform tonight's concert.

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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.