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Previewing Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals

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USA TODAY Sports

Previewing Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Nationals Park is not foreign to left-hander Alex Wood, who is slated to start there Friday for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he hasn't tasted victory in the nation's capital.

Wood (14-3, 2.81 ERA) used to pitch for the Atlanta Braves, who make three trips a year to Washington. He is 3-3 with a 2.78 ERA in nine career starts against the Nationals and 0-2, 2.84 in four turns at Nationals Park.

After going 10-0 with a 1.67 ERA in the first half of the season, he is 4-3 with a mark of 4.53 in the second half.

REALTED: NATS WITHIN STRIKING RANGE OF DODGERS FOR NL'S BEST TEAM

Wood went only five innings Saturday in his most recent start, giving up five runs and eight hits with three walks and two strikeouts in a 6-5 home loss to the Colorado Rockies.

"My command wasn't great," Wood said after the game. "Overall, I thought my stuff was there. I got to hopefully lock the command back in. It's time to bear down and hopefully turn this thing around."

Wood is 6-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 11 road starts this year.

The Nationals will start Edwin Jackson (5-5, 4.14 ERA), who is 4-3 with a 4.15 ERA in 10 career games (eight starts) against Los Angeles.

The Dodgers (94-52) beat the Nationals (89-57) in five games last year in the National League Division Series, and the teams are on track to finish with the two best records in the league this year.

Washington clinched the NL East on Sunday, and the Dodgers are closing in on the NL West title. The Nationals won two of three in Los Angeles June 5-7.

"I don't think we need to make a statement," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of facing Washington, "but I do think it's important for us to play good baseball. With baseball, there is a psychological component to pitcher-batter, team vs. team, that you can't really quantify, but there is something to it.

"We lost a series to these guys at home, so for us to go into their ballpark, with their team playing pretty good baseball, I think it's important. Not only because it's the Nationals, but for us internally to play good baseball. If we do that, it's a statement enough."

Washington manager Dusty Baker played in the World Series for the Dodgers in 1977, 1978 and 1981.

Speaking of the current Dodgers team, Baker said, "I'd watch them every day, it's just too late to stay up and watch. I've been paying attention to them the whole time, teams (that had) a better record than us or near us."

The Nationals are trying to get several regulars healthy as they prepare to host playoff games Oct. 6 and 7.

Jayson Werth returned to the starting lineup Wednesday after missing five games due to a sore left shoulder. Bryce Harper, who is on the disabled list because of knee and calf injuries, has started to ramp up his activities. He ran in the outfield before the Thursday game.

RELATED: SEE MOMENT NATS WON NL EAST TITLE

There was good news about shortstop Trea Turner, who missed 51 games with a wrist injury but had three hits Wednesday and stole his 40th base of the year. Turner added a double Thursday.

The Nationals beat the Braves 5-2 on Thursday with strong games from young players such as Victor Robles and Adrian Sanchez. Regulars Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy all got the night off.

"We got some energy tonight," Baker said Thursday, "and so hopefully that will transfer into tomorrow with our veteran guys against the Dodgers. And hopefully they'll be rested and ready to go tomorrow."

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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.