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NLDS 2017 Preview: Nationals vs. Cubs Tale of the Tape

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NLDS 2017 Preview: Nationals vs. Cubs Tale of the Tape

It's been a long time since the Washington Nationals played truly meaningful baseball. With such a commanding lead in the division, they've spent most of the past couple months just making sure they were healthy and tuned up for the postseason.

That now starts Friday, which the Chicago Cubs coming to town for the first two games of the NLDS.

The biggest question surrounding the Nationals, though, is whether or not they can make it past Chicago, to the NLCS for the first time in franchise history.

Here's a look at both teams before Friday's Game 1.

RELATED: STRASBURG AND DOOLITTLE TAKE HOME MONTHLY AWARDS

Starting Pitching

Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez form as dominant a trio of starters as the Nats have ever worked with, and there's nothing better than having strong pitching in October. Scherzer's hamstring will be a concern, even if he says he's fine. 

Strasburg has been their best pitcher since the All-Star break, and went 4-0 with a 0.83 ERA and 40 strikeouts over 32 2/3 innings in September to earn his third career National League Pitcher of the Month Award. He also allowed just 19 hits and seven walks without giving up a home run in five outings in the last full month of the season.

Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gonzalez all ranked in the top-5 for ERA in the NL during the regular season as well.

The Cubs fell just behind the Nats in team ERA at the end of the season. The Nationals also rank eigth in walks, the Cubs 22nd. 

Advantage: Nationals

Bullpen

What was once a glaring issue for the Nationals, is now a strength, finishing fourth in the NL in saves. 

Still, the Cubs have a much better bullpen ERA, fewer walks, and a lot more strikeouts. 

Sean Doolittle did win NL Reliever of the Month, and the additions of Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, along with Doolittle really improved a Nationals’ bullpen that was one of the worst in the league during the first half of the season.

Outside of those three pitchers though, the rest of the bullpen is far less reliable. 

Advantage: Cubs

Hitting

The Cubs bring a little more power in terms of home runs, but both are almost dead even in runs scored during the regular season. 

Daniel Murphy finished second in batting (.322), while Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon also finished hitting over .300 ranking inside the top-15. 

That Nats finished the regular season with the advantage in team batting as well. 

Advantage: Nationals

RELATED VIDEO: RIZZO TALKS HARPER'S RETURN FROM INJURY

Experience

Major disadvantage for the Nationals here. The Cubs won the World Series last year, while the Nats are still looking to win their first playoff series in franchise history. 

Yes, they won their fourth NL East title in six seasons, but experience comes when the games get deeper into the postseason.

That Nationals haven't been there yet, and the Cubs have won it it.

Advantage: Cubs

RELATED VIDEO: WILL REGULAR SEASON SUCCESS FOR NATS CONTINUE IN POSTSEASON?

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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.