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Stopping Justin Turner, homers key for Nats win over Dodgers in Game 5

Stopping Justin Turner, homers key for Nats win over Dodgers in Game 5

Here are some trends that have stood out through four games between the Nats and Dodgers in the NL Division Series, with a focus on how Los Angeles has managed to push it to a decisive Game 5 set for Thursday night in Washington...

Dodgers are scoring early and often - Of the Dodgers' 15 runs in the NL Division Series, 14 of them have come before the sixth inning. In each game the Dodgers have scored in the first inning, five runs in total. If the Nats can put up a few zeroes to begin Game 5, that would mark a notable breakthrough given how the first four of this series have played out. The Nats have to like their chances once the game moves to their bullpen, as the Dodgers have scored just two runs in 17 2/3 innings off their relievers.

Turner is having a monster series - Daniel Murphy isn't the only former Mets player making an impact in this series. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner has scored five runs and driven in three. The 31-year-old has five hits, including a two-run homer, and four walks. He's getting on base at a .647 clip and this has all come after he was hit on his left hand in his first at-bat of the series. The Nats simply have to find a way to stop this guy.

[RELATED: Former Nats pitcher Livan Hernandez to throw out Game 5 1st pitch]

Homers have been important for L.A. - The Dodgers were an average team at hitting homers this season, but not from the left side where they placed third among all MLB clubs. L.A. has five homers this series and three of them have been from lefties Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez.

The Dodgers have scored 15 total runs in the NLDS and eight have come off homers. Seager alone has hit two of them, both in the first innings of Games 1 and 2. 

The Dodgers' reliance on homers will certainly be something to watch in Game 5 with Nats starter Max Scherzer having allowed an NL-high 31 of them this season. Seventeen of those were hit by lefties, who slugged .442 this season off the Nats' ace compared to .288 for righties. The Dodgers have several lefty power bats, plus Andre Ethier who is banged up but could be valuable in a pinch-hit spot with a .926 OPS through 24 at-bats off Scherzer.

[RELATED: PODCAST: Can the Nationals stay alive in the playoffs?]

Dodgers' bullpen has shown cracks - L.A.'s relief staff had the best ERA in baseball this season and that number has technically improved in the playoffs, but there have been several spots this seres where they haven't come through.

In the Nats' Game 2 win, lefty Grant Dayton allowed an insurance run in the seventh inning. In the Nats' Game 3 victory, closer Kenley Jansen and right-hander Ross Stripling combined to give up four runs in the ninth inning, all of them charged to Jansen, who served up a monster homer to Jayson Werth and an RBI double by Ryan Zimmerman. Then, in Game 4, Pedro Baez and Luis Avilan allowed three runs to score, all of which were charged to Clayton Kershaw. 

The Nats have to be confident at this point they can get runs late in these games, given the success they have found so far.

[RELATED: Nats need Scherzer's best in NLDS Game 5 vs. Dodgers]

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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.