Nationals

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Instant analysis: Phillies 6, Nats 3

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Instant analysis: Phillies 6, Nats 3

Game in a nutshell: Hoping to move another step closer to their first division title, the Nationals dug themselves into an early hole and couldn't climb all the way out. Ross Detwiler, who hadn't allowed a run in his last 14 13 innings against the Phillies, was roughed up for five runs during a ragged, two-inning stretch. The Nationals knocked Cole Hamels out after five but couldn't get anything going against the Philadelphia bullpen.

And before they knew what hit them, they had dropped the ballgame. Even worse, the Braves rallied in dramatic fashion to beat the Marlins in the bottom of the ninth, clinching a playoff berth and reducing their deficit in the NL East to four games with eight to play.

The Nationals' magic number remains stuck at five. And they can no longer wrap up the division title in Philly. The earliest they can do that now: Friday night in St. Louis.

Hitting lowlight: In one regard, the Nationals lineup did a solid job against Hamels, making the left-hander work and driving his pitch count up to the point he had to be pulled after five innings. But given a chance to rally against a suspect Phillies bullpen, they fell flat.

Josh Lindblom retired the side in the sixth. Justin de Fratus and Antonio Bastardo combined to retire the side in the seventh. Phillipe Aumont retired the side in the eighth. And Jonathan Papelbon finished things off in the ninth to earn the save.

Pitching lowlight: What to make of Detwiler's start? He was dominant early, awful for a stretch in the middle and then dominant again to end his night. Unfortunately, that awful stretch in the second and third innings far overshadowed the good work he provided around it. The left-hander was hurt by a pair of long balls: homers by rookie Darin Ruf and veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz.

But Detwiler's biggest infractions weren't the balls that left the yard. They were the ones that never found the strike zone. He issued three walks in a span of four batters, including two straight to open the bottom of the third. Both, of course, wound up scoring, underscoring the cardinal sin nature of those free passes.

Key stat: Ryan Zimmerman (2006, 2009) and Adam Dunn (2009-10) are the only players in Nationals history to drive in 100 runs in a season. Both Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche are on pace to reach that figure this year.

Up next: The series continues at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday when John Lannan tries to overcome his Citizens Bank Park demons (he's 1-5 with a 7.06 ERA in his career here) against Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick.

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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.