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Nationals add reliever from Twins before trade deadline

Nationals add reliever from Twins before trade deadline

MIAMI -- After adding three relievers in two weeks, the Washington Nationals still aren't sure who's going to be their closer.

They now have plenty of strong candidates, however.

The NL East leaders added another Monday by barely beating the trade deadline to acquire Minnesota Twins All-Star right-hander Brandon Kintzler, who is 28 of 32 in save opportunities this year.

Kintzler joins newly acquired Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, both obtained July 16 from the Oakland Athletics, in the back of the bullpen. The deals transformed the Nationals' biggest weakness into a strength, and manager Dusty Baker will sort out who pitches when.

"It gives me options. As a manager you like to have as many options as possible," Baker said before the Nationals opened a series at Miami. "It's a continual experiment depending on how guys do. The better a guy performs, the more I can slide him into a certain place."

The Nationals began the week with a 13-game lead in the NL East despite a 5.07 bullpen ERA, worst in the NL. General manager Mike Rizzo said there's plenty of time to settle on a pecking order for the revamped relief corps.

"We're going to get a feel for how the bullpen comes together and how they gel and what roles we would like to see them in," Rizzo said. "We've got two months left in the regular season to kind of figure out which is the best way to attack."

The Nationals acquired Kintzler for 24-year-old left-handed pitching prospect Tyler Watson and $500,000 in international bonus pool allocation. Watson has a 4.43 ERA in 14 relief appearances in Single-A this season.

The Twins were sellers at the trade deadline as they began the week seven games back in the AL Central.

Kintzler, a pending free agent, took over as the Twins' closer in June 2016, converting 45 saves since the promotion, and has a 2.48 ERA this year. The former 40th-round draft pick, who spent three seasons in the independent leagues before making his major league debut with Milwaukee in 2010, has a 3.24 ERA over 271 career major league appearances.

"He pounds the strike zone, has a good sinker, throws a lot of ground balls, gets a lot of weak contact," Rizzo said. "He's capable against right-handers and left-handers, and a guy that is obviously experienced in pitching back ends of games. He has the capabilities of pitching in a lot of different roles, one of those roles being the ninth inning."

Madson and Doolittle also have ninth-inning experience, although neither is a true closer. But Rizzo said he now likes the bullpen's depth and balance.

"You've got lefties who can get out lefties and righties," he said. "You've got righties that can get out righties and lefties. It's a very versatile bullpen with guys that can get important outs at the back end of the game."

The Nationals have had issues at the bottom of their rotation, but Rizzo said they didn't pursue a starting pitcher before the trade deadline.

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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.