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Stephen Strasburg ends club-record scoreless streak, still gets win over Dodgers

Stephen Strasburg ends club-record scoreless streak, still gets win over Dodgers

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals qualified for the playoffs in three of the previous five years, yet injuries have limited Stephen Strasburg to just one postseason start in that span. Left largely without the All-Star right-hander, Washington lost the opening series each time.

If Strasburg keeps up his current level, postseason failures may become a thing of the past.

Strasburg ended his club-record scoreless streak at 35 innings, but two home runs from Ryan Zimmerman helped the NL Cy Young Award contender win his fourth consecutive start as Washington beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-1 on Sunday night.

RELATED: NATS CELEBRATE AFTER CLINCHING NL EAST TITLE

Strasburg (14-4) allowed a run in the second inning on Logan Forsythe's double, the first against him since Aug. 19. He struck out eight and combined with three relievers to toss a five-hitter.

"Stras' was awesome," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.

The Nationals avoided a three-game sweep against the NL front-runners. Their slumbering offense came alive on Zimmerman's three-run shot in the sixth off reliever Ross Stripling (3-5), and Zimmerman and pinch-hitter Adam Lind homered in the eighth.

Los Angeles had lost 11 in a row and 16 of 17 before ripping off four consecutive wins, including the first two games this series. The Dodgers magic number to clinch the NL West dropped to four when second-place Arizona lost at San Francisco.

They dropped the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS in Washington last October with Strasburg sidelined after partially tearing the pronator tendon in his throwing arm.

"He pitched well. He competed," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Strasburg. "Really couldn't create much stress towards him or on him."

The Dodgers ended the series six games ahead of Washington in the race to secure home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

"Two very good ballclubs. Very similar, very balanced," Roberts continued. "I know they have the same respect for us as we do them."

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The Nationals would likely concede home-field if it means having Strasburg, whose only postseason start came in 2014.

Strasburg had two outs in the second before the streak ended. With Yasiel Puig on third base, Forsythe hit a drive deep to left-center field. Michael Taylor raced into the gap, caught up with the flight path and put his glove on the ball, but couldn't catch it. Puig easily scored for a 1-0 lead.

During the streak, Strasburg allowed 19 hits, walked five and had 42 strikeouts.

"It was going to happen eventually," Strasburg said of the streak ending. "So, just tried to minimize the damage."

Anthony Rendon hit an RBI double in the seventh for Washington, which had lost four of five.

Zimmerman's solo homer in the eighth matched his career high of 33 long balls.

Following a walk and single against Stripling, Zimmerman powered a drive deep to center field for a 3-1 lead.

"I challenged Zimmerman with a slider and it ended up being up-middle and, obviously, he got a hold of it," Stripling said.

Washington scored only two earned runs over the first 23 innings of the series before Zimmerman's first homer.

"We were getting shutout. Having trouble scoring runs. That was a big home run," Baker said.

Los Angeles starter Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings but was removed after walking back-to-back batters with two outs in the fifth.

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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.