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Instant analysis: Rays 5, Nats 4

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Instant analysis: Rays 5, Nats 4

Game in a nutshell: The night began as a referendum on Chien-Ming Wang's status as the Nationals' No. 5 starter and the possibility of Ross Detwiler taking his spot. But the entire storyline turned in the top of the eighth when Rays reliever (and 2010 National) Joel Peralta was ejected for having a foreign substance in his glove. Memories of the 2005 brawl between the Nats and Angels when Jose Guillen tipped off Frank Robinson about Brendan Donnelly having pine tar in his glove immediately came rushing back. In the end, this bit of controversy didn't help the Nationals' cause, because Tampa Bay's Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney shut the door in the bottom of the eighth and ninth, quashing any potential game-winning rally. Thus, the Nats still lost their fourth straight game ... though they did create some intrigue for the rest of this series.

Hitting highlight: Michael Morse asked Davey Johnson the other day to drop him in the lineup because he was "killing the team." Johnson wouldn't listen and kept Morse in the cleanup spot tonight. That proved to be the right move, because Morse finally connected for his first homer of the season, drilling a line shot over the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center. The umps reviewed it to ensure the ball actually cleared the fence, which it did, and Morse celebrated the home run that perhaps will get his season on track.

Pitching lowlighthighlight: We'll do both categories tonight, because Wang's start clearly was a lowlight while Detwiler's relief appearance clearly was a highlight. Wang got himself into trouble from the very beginning and never righted himself. He had no trouble getting ahead of hitters -- he had two strikes on all five batters in the top of the first -- but he couldn't put any of them away. Detwiler, on the other hand, had no trouble putting hitters away. He retired 11 of 12 batters faced, the lone one reaching via a hit-by-pitch. Whether this turn of events was enough to produce a WangDetwiler swap in the No. 5 rotation slot remains to be seen.

Key stat: Of the last four non-quality starts by the Nationals rotation, Wang has pitched three.

Up next: Stephen Strasburg makes his first start in a week (thanks to a pair of off-days). The Nats ace will face prospect Chris Archer, making his major-league debut for the Rays in the 7:05 p.m. game at Nationals Park.

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Bryce Harper thanks Nationals fans for support during 2017 season

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USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper thanks Nationals fans for support during 2017 season

It's been a week since the air was sucked out of D.C. in the Nationals Game 5, 9-8 loss to the Chicago Cubs. 

And now that we've had a few days to decompress from another early D.C. playoff exit, Nats right fielder Bryce Harper decided to take some time to thank fans for their support this season.

Harper posted an Instagram video Wednesday afternoon, with a fresh cut, and thanked fans for continuing to pack Nats Park. In the video he says he looks forward to "chasing that championship" again next spring. 

The 2017 season could be described as a rough one for Harper after missing the last few weeks of the season with a bone bruise in his left knee. 

Harper had a .319 average during the 2017 season, along with 29 home runs, 97 RBI's, 95 runs scored and 4 stolen bases. He is entering the final year of his contract.

RELATED: 20 THINGS SAD D.C. SPORTS FANS SHOULD BE HAPPY ABOUT

National Fans. Thank you!💯 #RedLightRecording

A post shared by Bryce Harper (@bharper3407) on

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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.