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LIVE game thread: Nats go for sweep at Fenway

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LIVE game thread: Nats go for sweep at Fenway

BOSTON -- No, they won't have Bryce Harper in their lineup today. (The 19-year-old is dealing with tightness in his lower back, according to Davey Johnson.) Nonetheless, the Nationals will still have an opportunity to sweep the Red Sox this afternoon at Fenway Park.

With Harper sidelined, left-hander Jon Lester on the mound for Boston and the DH needed, Johnson has a very different lineup today. Xavier Nady is in right field and batting in Harper's usual No. 2 spot. Tyler Moore will be in left field, with Roger Bernadina taking over in center. Jesus Flores, meanwhile, catches for the third straight game (even in a day game after a twilight game yesterday).

Jordan Zimmermann makes the start for the Nationals, looking to beat the Red Sox for the second time in his career. He did it to them as a rookie in 2009, impressing then Boston manager Terry Francona and others.

Updates to come, so please check the Nats Insider live game thread...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at BOSTON RED SOX
Where: Fenway Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 50, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 177
Weather: Sunny, 75 degrees, Wind 11 mph in from RF

NATIONALS (34-23)
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Xavier Nady
3B Ryan Zimmerman
DH Michael Morse
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Tyler Moore
C Jesus Flores
CF Roger Bernadina
(RHP Jordan Zimmermann)

RED SOX (29-30)
CF Scott Podsednik
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Adrian Gonzalez
DH David Ortiz
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
3B Will Middlebrooks
RF Ryan Sweeney
SS Nick Punto
LF Darnell McDonald
(LHP Jon Lester)

UMPIRES
HP Al Porter, 1B Paul Nauert, 2B Doug Eddings, 3B Dana DeMuth (cc)

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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.