Quick Links

A series that defined the Nationals' season


A series that defined the Nationals' season

When the obituaries for the 2015 Washington Nationals are written a few weeks from now — yes, some have already published them, but they’re not officially done yet, they’re just in hospice care — they will try to determine the cause of death.

Injuries to their lineup? Underwhelming performances from their star-studded rotation? A bullpen full of unreliable arms? A manager who rarely pushed the right buttons? A general manager who was unable to make the right roster adjustments along the way?

All contributed to the ultimate demise of this team. But in a broader sense, these Nationals will have been defined by the scenario that played out each of the last three nights, plus twice more last week, plus countless times earlier in the spring and summer: An inability to finish what they started.

Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Mets was merely the latest in a string of late meltdowns, a repeat of what occurred Tuesday night, which was a repeat of what occurred Monday afternoon, which was a repeat of what occurred last week in St. Louis.

Consider that each of the Nationals’ last five losses came in games they led in the sixth inning or later. Simply finish those off, and this morning they’d look at the NL East standings and find themselves sitting all alone at the top, a game ahead of the Mets. Instead, those standings show them sitting firmly in second place, a full 7 games back.

And it’s not like this is only a recent trend. The Nationals now have lost 17 games they led in the sixth inning or later this year. That happened only eight times in 2014.

(On the flip side, they’ve won only seven games they trailed in the sixth inning or later this year. That happened 15 times in 2014.)

“The game doesn’t stop for anybody,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “I don’t care how good or bad you are, the game is going to keep on moving on. You just gotta keep your head up and keep on pushing forward, because otherwise it will swallow you right up.”

RELATED: History repeats itself yet again for Nationals

Nobody has been swallowed up lately like Drew Storen, who only 24 hours after suffering the worst meltdown of his career (regular-season category) was sent back into the lion’s den Wednesday night and didn’t emerge in one piece.

After watching his closer-turned-setup-man walk throw only 7-of-22 pitches for strikes Tuesday, manager Matt Williams said it was important to show confidence in Storen, to put him right back into a meaningful situation as soon as possible.

That situation came in the top of the eighth, the Nationals having just seen their 2-1 lead morph into a 2-2 tie after Stephen Strasburg (who pitched brilliantly all night) served up a leadoff homer to Kelly Johnson and later a 1-out single to Curtis Granderson. Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets’ recently acquired beast of a slugger, was due up, and so Williams made the long walk to the mound, signaling toward the right-field bullpen as the crowd of 27,530 booed.

“I want to do everything we can to win a baseball game,” Williams said. “I look at it … every morning I wake up and I look in the mirror and say: ‘Do whatever you have to do today to help us win a game.’ Drew’s in there tonight for the righty.”

Storen has been lights-out against right-handed hitters this season, holding them to a .138 batting average, .206 on-base percentage and .234 slugging percentage. But Cespedes is the rare right-handed hitter who enjoys far more success against fellow righties (.319 batting average, .927 OPS) than lefties (.220 batting average, .718 OPS).

Favorable matchup or not, it didn’t matter which side of the plate Cespedes occupied when Storen placed a 1-0 slider on a platter, then watched as the ball soared into the left-field bullpen.

It was the ninth time in 15 games Storen has surrendered a run, his ERA a whopping 9.22 over the last month.

“I’ve dealt with a fair share of adversity in my career,” he said. “I just gotta dig down and get through it. You gotta keep pushing. You gotta look forward. Like I said last night, you can’t change the past, but you can control what’s coming up. So you gotta make that adjustment.”

As was the case Tuesday (and Monday) the Nationals’ clubhouse was somber after this one. Despite a summer full of injuries, inconsistent performances, questionable moves and missed opportunities, this team still somehow entered the week with a realistic shot at taking back the division.

If only it could have found a way to do what it has struggled so many times this season to do: Finish what it started.

“Pretty devastating,” Desmond said. “We put ourselves in a good position. Coming into this series we were obviously not where we would have liked to be, but we gave ourselves a chance. Obviously we were a lot more optimistic coming into this series than exiting it.

“Is it over? No. Until the numbers tell you it’s over, it’s not over.”

MORE NATIONALS: Williams addresses criticism from media, fans

Quick Links

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?


Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.


Quick Links

Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine


Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.


He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.