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Solano catching on with Nats

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Solano catching on with Nats

Some Thursday morning leftovers and look-aheads as you get back to the grind following what hopefully was an enjoyable and safe Independence Day...

-- Jhonatan Solano was summoned to make his big-league debut five weeks ago, only after a string of injuries befell four players ahead of him on the Nationals' catching depth chart. These days, there's little reason to believe he'll be heading back to the minors anytime soon.

Solano has proven to be an unexpected surprise for the Nationals, a 26-year-old rookie who not only calls a good game behind the plate but has some legitimate skills at the plate.

With a homer and a single during yesterday's 9-4 win over the Giants, Solano raised his batting average to .393 (11-for-28). He's got two homers, three doubles, six RBI and an 1.128 OPS. Not bad for the Nationals' fifth-string catcher.

"I've said before, I've never seen such depth in catching as in this organization," manager Davey Johnson said. "From Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, Solano, Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado ... I mean, all of them are great receivers, catch and throw, block balls great. And all of them have good bat potential. I've never been in an organization, and it's my fifth one, anywhere close to that."

The hilariously nicknamed "Onion" -- he traveled from his native Colombia to Venezuela for a tryout with the Nationals on a bus with a bushel of onions on the seat next to him -- still isn't quite sure what to make of his good fortune. A career .251 hitter in the minors, he's taking pride in the fact he hasn't been overwhelmed by big-league pitching and that he's contributing to a first-place club.

"I feel great right now because everyone's playing good," he said. "It's a little pressure, but I try to do everything good because I don't want to look like: 'Oh, he's the only guy that can do nothing.'"

The more Solano shows he can hold his own at this level, the more starts he's likely to get behind the plate. Johnson has wanted to gives Flores most rest and not burn out his starting catcher before season's end. With Solano establishing himself more and more, that shouldn't be a problem.

-- Chad Tracy began his rehab assignment for Class A Potomac last night and put together a couple of productive at-bats. The veteran corner infielder went 0-for-3 but delivered a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat and later drew a 10-pitch walk.

Tracy, who led the club with a .333 batting average and nine RBI as a pinch-hitter, has been out since late-May with a torn groin muscle. What initially was feared as a potential season-ending injury hasn't proven nearly as serious. Tracy figures spend the rest of the week on rehab but could be activated off the disabled list in time for the Nationals' second-half opener July 13 in Miami.

-- Don't adjust your eyeglasses or TV screens tonight when you check out the series final between the Nationals and Giants. Things might look a tad different, because both clubs will be wearing 1924 throwback uniforms, commemorating the only World Series championship in Washington baseball history.

The team uniforms won't be the only throwback elements to the game. The grounds crew, according to a Nationals press release, will be dressed in "full 1920s attire." The scoreboard will have a 1924 look to it, and traditional organ music will be played between innings. Also, the ceremonial first pitch will be performed with an actual ball from Game 6 of the '24 World Series and will be thrown from behind the first-base dugout as it used to be done.

-- Finally, here's your staggering fact of the day: When play begins around baseball today, the NL's two best records will belong to the Washington Nationals (47-32) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (45-36). Who had THAT predicted on Opening Day?

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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.