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Nats blow big opportunity by letting Clayton Kershaw off the hook

Nats blow big opportunity by letting Clayton Kershaw off the hook

For as much focus that is applied to managerial decisions, defensive mistakes, bullpen collapses, pinch-hit at-bats and pitching gems in the MLB playoffs, postseason games often boil down to one simple premise. If one team is given an opportunity by their opponent, no matter how unexpected that chance may be, they have to take advantage. 

In the playoffs all teams are good. They got to this point in part because they don't do the things that bad teams do to beat themselves. The good clubs commit very few missteps, and the same applies to great players. Clayton Kershaw, among them.

On Friday, in Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Nationals were given a window few teams have been offered. Kershaw, he of three Cy Youngs and an NL MVP award, did not have his best stuff. He was uncharacteristically off, still sharpening his tools since returning from a back injury. His curveball missed low in the dirt and that left his fastball more hittable than usual.

[RELATED: Cold bats put Nationals down 1-0 in NLDS]

That allowed the Nats to notch three runs against him and chase him after five innings. That would usually be enough for ace Max Scherzer, a Cy Young winner himself. That would normally represent a considerable break. Not on this night.

The Nationals had Kershaw in a vulnerable state, but could not come away with a victory that probably should have been theirs.

"We had him on the ropes a couple times, the big hit just escaped us," manager Dusty Baker said.

Now the Nationals are down a game in a best-of-five series, just two losses from elimination. They have essentially lost the home field advantage they worked so hard to procure. 

"We worked him really good. We answered back and we knocked him out of the game in five innings," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "Obviously we had some opportunities and didn't get it done."

[RELATED: Nats name starters for Games 2 and 3 vs. Dodgers in NLDS]

Kershaw gave up eight hits after doing that only three times in 21 starts during the regular season. Only twice did he allow as many runs as he offered on Friday night. The Nationals created scoring chances and could have had more, but let him off the hook in several key spots.

Danny Espinosa struck out twice to end innings and left six men on base. Scherzer popped out with the bases loaded to end the second. All three moments had the sellout crowd rocking Nationals Park before all took their seats in disappointment. The Nationals went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine baserunners. 

Scherzer fell just short in a big spot at the plate, but his performance on the mound was what truly hurt the Nationals. He found trouble early with four runs through three innings, three of them on home runs. The Nats ace would recover to go six innings, but those four runs were all the Dodgers needed. Their bullpen took over after Kershaw and combined to throw four scoreless frames.

The Nationals would have more opportunities after Kershaw exited. Like, when Daniel Murphy walked with out in the seventh, only to get caught stealing second soon after. Or, when Clint Robinson doubled with two outs in the eighth before Chris Heisey struck out looking to closer Kenley Jansen. 

Losing to the Dodgers in Game 1 is tolerable, even in a short series. Losing to Kershaw can be even be expected. But losing to him on a day he didn't have his ace stuff is an especially tough pill to swallow.

[RELATED: Nats' Stephen Strasburg throws bullpen for 1st time in injury rehab]

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Bryce Harper thanks Nationals fans for support during 2017 season

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Bryce Harper thanks Nationals fans for support during 2017 season

It's been a week since the air was sucked out of D.C. in the Nationals Game 5, 9-8 loss to the Chicago Cubs. 

And now that we've had a few days to decompress from another early D.C. playoff exit, Nats right fielder Bryce Harper decided to take some time to thank fans for their support this season.

Harper posted an Instagram video Wednesday afternoon, with a fresh cut, and thanked fans for continuing to pack Nats Park. In the video he says he looks forward to "chasing that championship" again next spring. 

The 2017 season could be described as a rough one for Harper after missing the last few weeks of the season with a bone bruise in his left knee. 

Harper had a .319 average during the 2017 season, along with 29 home runs, 97 RBI's, 95 runs scored and 4 stolen bases. He is entering the final year of his contract.

RELATED: 20 THINGS SAD D.C. SPORTS FANS SHOULD BE HAPPY ABOUT

National Fans. Thank you!💯 #RedLightRecording

A post shared by Bryce Harper (@bharper3407) on

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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.