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Nats-Phillies instant analysis

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Nats-Phillies instant analysis

Game in a nutshell: Coming off an 8-0 trouncing at the hands of the Phillies, the Nationals hoped to get back on track in the second game of this series. And they appeared to get off to a rousing start, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first thanks to a pair of botched plays by the Philadelphia infield. But then the bats went silent just as Edwin Jackson started serving up home runs, three of them in total. The Nationals bullpen did its job to keep the deficit at one, and everyone in the ballpark nervously waited for the lineup to break through with the game-tying (and perhaps game-winning) rally. It never came. All of a sudden, the Nationals have lost two in a row and have seen their record fall back to 19 games over the .500 mark.

Hitting lowlight: Stymied for the better part of seven innings by Vance Worley, the Nationals finally got their chance to rally against the Phillies' highly suspect bullpen in the eighth. And they were in prime position to drive in at least the game-tying run after Ryan Zimmerman (who was out of the lineup for the second straight night with lower back tightness) came off the bench to deliver a pinch-hit single up the middle. But Michael Morse swung right through a 93 mph fastball from Josh Lindblom, then Zimmerman surprisingly tried to steal second on lefty Jeremy Horst's very first pitch to Adam LaRoche. He was immediately gunned down to end the eighth, the most frustrating moment in a very frustrating game.

Pitching lowlight: This was something of a strange outing for Jackson. On the one hand, he put 12 men on base in only 5 23 innings. On the other hand, he managed to escape allowing just three runs, all scoring on solo homers. The right-hander was by no means sharp, and his pace was painfully slow at times, especially after he slid hard into the plate to end the bottom of the second. But he did find a way to get some outs when he really needed to, and because of that he at least gave his team a chance. Davey Johnson perhaps gave his veteran starter more rope than others in his rotation, not even having anyone warming in the bullpen during a shaky fifth inning. That's the kind of respect he'll give an experienced pitcher like Jackson, and ultimately the strategy worked.

Key stat: Tonight's official paid attendance was 23,777. That's the first crowd at Nationals Park under 25,000 since May 15.

Up next: The series concludes Thursday at 7:05 p.m., with Ross Detwiler taking the mound for the Nationals against fellow lefty Cole Hamels (who makes his first appearance at Nationals Park since he intentionally plunked Bryce Harper in the back on May 6).

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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.