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Instant analysis: Dodgers 4, Nats 3 (10)

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Instant analysis: Dodgers 4, Nats 3 (10)

Game in a nutshell: A game with all sorts of delicious storylines -- including Bryce Harper's debut and Stephen Strasburg's first career start in Southern California -- more than lived up to its billing but ended in crushing fashion. Strasburg was brilliant over seven innings, striking out nine. And Harper dazzled the sellout crowd both with his bat (a double off the base of the center-field fence) and his arm (a missile to the plate that would have nailed Jerry Hairston had catcher Wilson Ramos not dropped the ball). Then with the game on the line in the ninth inning, Harper delivered again: His sacrifice fly to left brought home Rick Ankiel and gave the kid his first career RBI and what looked like the game-winning RBI. That was, until Henry Rodriguez entered in the bottom of the ninth and blew the save amid a flurry of base hits and wild pitches and sent the game into extras. Then Matt Kemp crushed a pitch from Tom Gorzelanny into the center-field bleachers to give the Dodgers a 4-3 victory.
Hitting highlight: Where would the Nationals be without Adam LaRoche right now? Seriously, how clutch has the veteran first baseman been for this offensively challenged team? LaRoche did it again tonight leading off the seventh inning in a scoreless game, belting a solo shot down the right-field line for his team-leading, fourth homer of the season. He's also got a team-high 17 RBI. And his single off left-hander Scott Elbert ignited the game-winning rally in the ninth.

Pitching highlight: Strasburg has put together some dominant starts in his young career, but this one might have rivaled any of the previous ones. In control from the moment he toed the rubber, the right-hander blew away a good Dodgers team and struck out MVP candidate Matt Kemp twice on fastballs. Unfortunately, Strasburg wound up with no-decision after allowing a dubious run in the seventh. Still, this was yet another big-time performance from Strasburg on the big stage.

Key stat: Of the first 465 batters he faced in the big leagues, Strasburg hit only one. Then he plunked two in a span of 17 batters tonight.
Up next: Gio Gonzalez takes the mound Sunday at 4:10 p.m. EDT for the finale of this series and this West Coast trip. Lefty Chris Capuano starts for the Dodgers, a potentially tough matchup for Harper.

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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.