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The Nationals look to avoid yet another first round exit

NLDS Nationals Cubs Baseball

Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker answers questions after Game 3 of the National League Division Series baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Chicago. The Cubs won 2-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the series. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)


The Cubs won Game 1, the Nats Game 2 and the Cubs took Game 3. The Nats look to hold serve tonight, but this time their entire season is on the line. A loss would mean the fourth first round exit in the club’s four postseason appearances.

A lot will be made of that in the hours leading up to this evening’s game -- I’ve already joked about it on Twitter because I can’t help myself -- but it’s easy to make more of it than is really warranted. Baseball is a random game in the best of times, but almost anything can happen in three to five games.

Stuff like the Nationals offense -- which was near the top of the National League -- going cold as ice over a four day period. The team is hitting a collective 11-for-91 and a line of .121/.200/.231. There is no shame in this, mind you: the Cubs are hitting a collective 15-for-84 and a line of .179/.274/.298. Yesterday their hits just came at better times. Stuff. Just. Happens.

Tanner Roark will take the mound for Washington. He’s no ace, but he’s pitched much better in the second half than the first. Roark, who grew up just outside of Chicago, is 4-2 in seven career starts against the Cubs and is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA against Chicago this season. He’ll face off against Jake Arrieta, who has been given some extra rest to allow his bum hamstring to get a bit stronger. Arrieta got beat badly in his only start against the Nationals this season, giving up six runs – five earned – in four innings of work. That was in late June, of course, which might as well be a year ago. He hasn’t pitched since September 26. Roark hasn’t gone since October 1. Both should be fresh.

Really, though, this game is going to be about the hitters. Someone, eventually, is going to heat up, right? They have to eventually, no? If the Nats’ bats don’t do something they’re done. And if they do get eliminated in the first round once again, I presume many people will question Dusty Baker’s job status and talk about curses and futility and mental blocks and stuff. They shouldn’t -- the Cubs are pretty good, after all, and remember, it’s baseball and anything can happen in baseball -- but they will.

That’s just something that happens in baseball too.

Follow @craigcalcaterra