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Instant Analysis: Strasburg shuts down Marlins

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Instant Analysis: Strasburg shuts down Marlins

Game in a nutshell: Stephen Strasburg was stuck in a three-game losing streak. Ian Desmond was out of the lineup with a lingering oblique strain. The Nationals were silenced at the plate. Reason to worry? Um, no. Strasburg tossed six scoreless innings to improve to 10-4 for the season. He also chimed in with another RBI single, setting in motion a two-run rally off Ricky Nolasco in the top of the fifth. The Nats added two more runs off Nolasco in the sixth, with Michael Morse driving in one run and Danny Espinosa driving in the other. Tyler Clippard got himself into a big jam in the ninth, loading the bases with nobody out. But he escaped it and thus secured the Nats' fifth shutout victory of the season.

Hitting highlight: With Desmond on the bench, the Nats needed an offensive spark from somebody. So they turned to their best hitter ... Strasburg. Seriously, nobody has consistently put up better numbers at the plate than the All-Star pitcher. Strasburg drew a two-out walk in the third, becoming the first player to reach base against Nolasco. Then with two outs in the fifth, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen decided to intentionally walk Jhonatan Solano and take his chances with the pitcher. Won't they ever learn? Strasburg laced an RBI single to right to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead. He's now hitting .385 (10-for-26) this season with four RBI, a .448 on-base percentage and .654 slugging percentage.

Pitching highlight: Strasburg wasn't in top form today. He gave up six hits and a walk, bounced multiple pitches in front of the plate and put himself in trouble several times. But when he really needed to make pitches, he did. And that's how he still wound up tossing six shutout innings. With two on in the second, he struck out John Buck. With the bases loaded in the third, he struck out Logan Morrison and got Hanley Ramirez to ground out (with Ryan Zimmerman making a nice play). And with runners on second and third in the fifth, he struck out Ramirez on a 2-2 curveball. That's called rising to the occasion, and that's what the ace of a playoff staff is supposed to do.
Key stat: All seven of the Nats' hits today were singles, which means their consecutive streak of games with at least one extra-base hit ended at 85.

Up next: This series isn't over yet, folks. We're wrapping around the weekend and concluding with a 7:10 p.m. Monday game. Edwin Jackson will take the ball for the Nationals against the always-combustible Carlos Zambrano.

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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.