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Instant Analysis: Nationals 9, D'backs 1


Instant Analysis: Nationals 9, D'backs 1

Game in a nutshell: After a four-game sweep against a hapless team in Houston, the Nationals figured to face a stiffer test tonight against an Arizona club trying to hang on in the NL wild-card race. But what began as a tight pitchers' duel between Stephen Strasburg and Trevor Cahill turned into a rout. Ryan Zimmerman launched a two-run homer in the fifth. Michael Morse crushed a solo shot to deep right-center in the sixth. And the Nats piled on in the ninth to run away with it. Strasburg, meanwhile, merely tossed a one-hitter over six strong innings to earn his 13th win of the year. Thus, the Nationals earned their seventh consecutive victory, and at 70-43 they're on pace for 100 wins at season's end.

Hitting highlight: We could highlight the homers by Zimmerman and Morse, each of them towering shots. But how about some love for Steve Lombardozzi? The rookie tripled in the third, singled in the fifth, singled in the seventh and then was credited with another single in the ninth (though pitcher Mike Zagurski may have tagged him on the back before his foot hit the base). Regardless, it was the second time this season Lombardozzi has compiled four hits. He also scored four times, helping lead an impressive offensive attack against the Arizona pitching staff.

Pitching highlight: What would Davey Johnson have done if Strasburg didn't allow a hit through six innings but had a pitch count of 105? We'll never know, but the veteran skipper is probably glad he didn't have to contemplate such a scenario, because he probably would have had to make a very unpopular decision. Despite the dominant numbers, Strasburg wasn't totally sharp during this outing. He uncharacteristically walked four batters and expended a lot of energy (and sweat) throwing those 105 pitches. It's a testament to his overall stuff and ability to pitch that he could still hold a pretty good lineup to one run and one hit over six innings. Sadly, there were no offensive fireworks from the right-hander in this one. Strasburg went 0-for-3 with three groundouts, seeing his batting average plummet from .343 to .316.

Key stat: Nine of Morse's 11 homers this season have been hit to center or right fields. Tonight's blast to right-center traveled 446 feet, the longest opposite-field homer in the majors this season according to ESPN Hit Tracker.

Up next: Game 2 of this series features veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson against left-hander Wade Miley, who at 12-7 with a 2.85 ERA is making a case for NL Rookie of the Year honors. First pitch will be at 8:10 p.m. EDT.

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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.