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Playoff feeling in D.C. as Dodgers visit the Nationals this weekend

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Playoff feeling in D.C. as Dodgers visit the Nationals this weekend

Just a couple of days ago, the upcoming weekend series between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers had huge significance. At Nationals Park there was a potential to have the title of best team in the league switching hands.

Battling back from being 14.5 games down, the Nationals moved back into contention for the top seed in the National League post-season.

This of course is due in part to Los Angeles losing 16 of a stretch from 17 games.

Since then the Dodgers have won two in a row, while the Nationals have lost two of their last three. The Dodgers lead for home-field has now pushed back up to 5.0 games.

This will be the final regular season series between the two squads. In Los Angeles back in June, the Nationals took two out of three with their only loss being against Clayton Kershaw.

Fortunately for the Nationals, Kershaw (17-3, 2.12 ERA) is not scheduled to start in this series.  Then again, the Nats ace, Max Scherzer (14-6, 2.59 ERA) will not see the mound either.

MORE NATS: TREA TRUNER SHOWS OFF BASEBALL IQ AFTER GETTING CALLED OUT

As of Thursday evening, here are the projected starters:

Alex Wood (14-3, 2.81 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (5-5, 3.88 ERA)

Rich Hill (9-8, 3.67 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (13-4, 2.64 ERA)

Hyun-Jin Ryu (5-7, 3.59 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (14-7, 2.68 ERA)

Notice who else is missing for the Dodgers? No Yu Darvish.

While you could easily make the case that Wood deserves to be the No. 2 starter behind Kershaw, Darvish will be one of their three post-season starters. Meaning for the Nationals, they will only see one of their potential opposing starting pitchers this weekend if the two teams were to meet in the post-season. The Dodgers will see two with Strasburg and Gonzalez.

All three of the earlier head-to-heads in 2017 were low scoring. Hits were few and far between for each team.

But this is line-up is completely different than in the spring and going against different parts of the rotation. There is no Bryce Harper or Daniel Murphy available for the team; they drove in three of the Nationals seven runs in their earlier series. Howie Kendrick has taken over in left field and Jayson Werth is now back.

Not too many changes for the Dodgers in their line-up. The big addition is Curtis Granderson, but only if he gets the start in a loaded outfield.

During their dismal stretch of one win in 17 tries, only Yasiel Puig has kept the bats alive. Since August 15, Puig is hitting .303 with 27 hits. Of the 27, 15 have been for extra bases. In the spring though, he only had one hit and three strikeouts for nine at-bats vs. the Nationals.

For those with short memories, last year the Dodgers defeated the Nationals 3-2 in the Divisional Series. It didn’t matter that Washington had home-field as the No. 2 seed.

RELATED: LOOK INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM ONCE THE NATS CLINCHED

It is all but a lock that the Dodgers and Nationals will not meet this post-season until the NLCS, with both taking the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. Unlike the NLDS, the League Championship is a best-of-seven which will be a completely different scenario when they meet up. Both teams have already clinched a playoff spot and the Nationals have claimed the 2017 NL East title. As far as the two are concerned, they are just battling for who plays at home for four games as opposed to three.

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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.