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Nationals not overly concerned injuries will affect defense in playoffs

Nationals not overly concerned injuries will affect defense in playoffs

Look around the field and the Nationals have questions about the health of many players, to varying degrees. 

At first base, Ryan Zimmerman is nursing a sore calf muscle. At second, Daniel Murphy has a left buttock strain. At catcher, Jose Lobaton has a right ankle that just over a week ago he described as good to play, but not great.

In the outfield, Jayson Werth missed the team's final two games with back tightness. Bryce Harper jammed his thumb late in the season and may or may not still be dealing with a neck and right shoulder issue.

Those injuries are all relatively minor. With the exception of Murphy, each ailment shouldn't affect their status for Game 1 on Friday. But add them all up, and combine them with Trea Turner's inexperience in center field, one could argue there are questions about the Nationals' defense as they get set for a playoff run.

"If they put their hands on it, most of the time you're out. It's just a matter of how much range they may have," manager Dusty Baker said. 

"I've got some capable guys that I can put in there, but then that makes my bench weaker as I interject guys into the game depending on when I interject them into the game. Do you have some younger, lesser players then facing some of their horses at the end? I'm going to be very cognizant of who they have left, who they may bring in and the matchups that might be coming. That's part of the job."

[RELATED: Dusty Baker: Playoffs 'where I'm supposed to be']

With ace pitchers like Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw on the mound, runs may come at a premium. They always do in the postseason. Small mistakes can loom large and alter games and series, especially when it's a best of five. 

Murphy himself learned that the hard way in the World Series last fall. His Mets committed five errors - two by Murphy himself - and it cost them against the Kansas City Royals. 

The Nationals, to be fair, have been among the best defensive teams in baseball this season. They had the second-fewest errors, the second-best fielding percentage and the fifth-best defensive efficiency rating. Defense is one of their strengths, but injuries can change everything and the Nats have a long list of them at the moment.

GM Mike Rizzo, for one, is not at all concerned.

"I love our defense. We're a very efficient defensive team," he said. "When we get to it, we catch it and we usually throw you out. So we feel good about that. Part of the defense is that guy in the middle of the field and we feel really good about that part of it."

The Nationals do have that working for them. If Scherzer has his strikeout stuff, defense may not matter as much as it usually does, at least in Game 1.

[RELATED: Nats to have Adam and Drake LaRoche throw out 1st pitch in playoffs]

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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.