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Nationals arrive in St. Louis for NLDS

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Nationals arrive in St. Louis for NLDS

ST. LOUIS -- Hello from Busch Stadium, which has something of a familiar feel right now. Weren't we just here? As a matter of fact, yes. The Nationals played here last weekend. The stakes this time are just a bit higher, though, and for proof of that all you need to do is look at the MLB Postseason logos being painted along the first and third base lines as we speak.

The NLDS gets underway tomorrow afternoon, with Gio Gonzalez facing Adam Wainwright. Today, we've got workouts by both the Nationals and Cardinals, press conferences with both managers and starting pitchers and open clubhouses for interviews.

Because they had no way of knowing who they'd be playing in this first round of the postseason, the Nationals waited until today to fly into St. Louis. They took off from Dulles International Airport at noon EDT and landed at Lambert-St. Louis about two hours later.

And they'll appear here at Busch Stadium around 4 p.m. EDT, with their on-field workout scheduled for 5 p.m. after the Cardinals wrap up their session.

We'll have to see what news emerges over the course of the afternoon, but here are a few items to watch for...

-- The revelation of the Nationals' 25-man roster for this series. They aren't actually required to finalize it until tomorrow morning, but Davey Johnson might just go ahead and announce it today. As speculated yesterday, the biggest question likely involves who gets the last spot in the bullpen (with Christian Garcia the odds-on favorite over John Lannan or Zach Duke) and who gets the last spot on the bench (with Tyler Moore a likelier choice than Mark DeRosa or Eury Perez).

-- The revelation of the order of the Nationals' rotation for this series. Because they're facing the right-handed-heavy Cardinals and not the left-handed-heavy Braves, forget about any move to get Lannan in the mix. Gonzalez will start Game 1 tomorrow, with Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2 on Monday. Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler will start Games 3 and 4; it's just a question of in what order. My hunch: Jackson gets Game 3, with Detwiler in Game 4.

-- What, if anything, does Stephen Strasburg have to say? He's not going to be on the active roster, but he did make the trip and will be in the dugout throughout the postseason. While those of us who are around the Nationals on a daily basis have long since moved on from the shutdown story, I can assure you the national media has not. They will absolutely be looking for Strasburg in the clubhouse today, and they're going to want to interview him. How will the right-hander deal with all the attention?

So, be sure to check back for all that and more...

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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.