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Christian Yelich is out for the year, changing the wild-card race

Christian Yelich is out for the year, changing the wild-card race

At 10:44 p.m., the news came the way it does now, over social media. The Milwaukee Brewers' official account sent out the damning tweet: Christian Yelich, on his way to a second consecutive MVP award, broke his kneecap. He's out for the year.

This is bad for baseball, worse for Milwaukee. Two days ago, Yelich became the 10th player in major-league history to join the 40-30 club with 40 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Somehow, Yelich had improved on his 2018 MVP season which launched him from known good player to pleasant star. Few approached him at the All-Star Game inside Nationals Park last year while he tended to his stuff at his locker. By the start of the 2019 season, Yelich was besieged with interview requests once his talent and amenable personality became apparent to a larger audience. He was in high demand during the All-Star Game in Cleveland. 

Now, he's done for the year after fouling a ball off his kneecap in the first inning Tuesday night. His injury, as lamentable as it is, alters the wild-card race.

Milwaukee -- 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs while Chicago played San Diego on Tuesday  -- has won five in a row. Yelich leads the major leagues in OPS. The Brewers’ upcoming schedule is soft: Only a three-game series against St. Louis presents a quality team. Otherwise, it’s San Diego, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Colorado. Milwaukee started a three-game series against woeful Miami with a win Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s Brewers lineup didn’t feature another player with over a .900 OPS. For comparison, Washington has two, Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon. Rookie right field Trent Grisham replaced Yelich in right field. He’ll head to the bottom of the lineup. Yasmani Grandal, Eric Thames and Ryan Braun will become the focal points. None are remotely close to Yelich. Milwaukee’s lineup is suddenly thin.

This is the second major blow to a wild-card contender. The Cubs lost Javy Baez to a fractured thumb Saturday. Chicago thinks Baez has a chance to return for the playoffs -- if it holds on to the second wild-card spot or ends up catching the sliding Nationals. No such chance for Yelich, who may need surgery.

Meanwhile, the Nationals have avoided such a dire fate. They just need to handle their business while healthy. Unfortunately for those chasing them, it’s not going to be so easy.

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Why Nationals fans should be rooting for the Yankees in the ALCS

Why Nationals fans should be rooting for the Yankees in the ALCS

The Nationals wrapping up the NL Championship Series in a sweep has given them an unusually long break of six days before Game 1 of the World Series takes place Tuesday night. That has allowed the team and their fans to stop and soak in the glory of making it this far. It also gives plenty of time to watch the ALCS and consider Washington's next opponent.

When it comes to that, Nationals should have one clear, if undesirable, option. That is to root for the New York Yankees.

Yes, the team everyone loves to hate, the Evil Empire, the team with more bandwagon fans maybe than anyone else in sports. In a sense, the Yankees don't deserve going to the World Series as much as the Houston Astros, as they have won more championships than anyone else. But they also probably represent the Nats' best path towards getting their first.

The Astros, though more likeable than the Yankees, are also better. They are a superteam devoid of weaknesses. They would meet the Nationals in the World Series with an advantage in just about every single category. Their lineup is better, their defense is better, their pitching staff as a whole is better and their manager is more experienced. They won a World Series just two years ago and are arguably better now than they were then.

Even their starting rotation, one could argue, is at least as good if not better than that of the Nationals. They may be the only team in baseball that can match the triumvirate of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin with an equally-imposing trio of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. Not to mention their vastly superior bullpen.

The Yankees, meanwhile, also have a better lineup and bullpen than the Nationals. But they don't have the rotation the Nationals do. They only had one starter this season post a sub-4.00 ERA and that was James Paxton, who has already allowed four runs in seven innings so far this postseason.

The Nationals' rotation would be a clear strength against the Yankees' and would be the ideal counter to New York's best asset, a power-hitting lineup led by Aaron Judge, D.J. LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton. And while Stanton has given the Nationals nightmares for many years, he is not 100 percent healthy due to a quadriceps strain.

There are also some good narratives in a potential Nationals-Yankees series, for those who are interested in those sorts of things. For one, the last time a D.C. baseball team made the World Series, back in 1933, they played a New York team, the Giants. In fact, the Senators beat the Giants in 1924 to capture Washington's only World Series title.

There is also an angle many Nationals fans may dismiss, but will be a factor for some. Before the Nats arrived in Washington, generations of baseball fans in Washington grew up rooting for the Baltimore Orioles. And not only were those fans trained to view the Yankees as rivals, many were scarred by the 1996 ALCS when a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached out to catch a fly ball in Game 1 that should not have been a home run. To many baseball fans in this area, it cost their favorite team a chance to play in the World Series.

Playing New York would also give fans an easier way to travel to road games. The drive to New York is only about four hours via car or bus, and the train is even faster. Yankee Stadium would likely have a good amount of red in the crowd.

Travel considerations and media storylines aside, the most important goal for the Nationals is to win four more games and capture the team's first World Series title. Playing the Yankees increases the likelihood of that happening at least a little bit.

It's like a prescription with adverse side effects that is essential for a patient. Nationals fans should know what to do as they watch the ALCS. Just maybe hold your nose as you wash it down.

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Everything we know about the Nationals' World Series schedule (so far)

Everything we know about the Nationals' World Series schedule (so far)

The Nationals are going to the World Series. Everybody knows that by now. But how and when you can watch the Nationals play is becoming clearer by the day.

The first two games will be played in either Yankee Stadium or Minute Maid Park, depending on whether the Yankees or Astros win the American League Championship Series. Game 1 will be on Tuesday, Oct. 22, while Game 2 will be Wednesday, Oct. 23.

Games 3 and 4 will be at Nationals Park on Friday, Oct. 25 and Sunday, Oct. 26, respectively. If necessary, Game 5 will also be played at Nationals Park on Sunday, Oct. 27. A Game 5 would be the last game the Nationals host this season.

Games 6 and 7, if necessary, would be at the American League representative's ballpark on Tuesday, Oct. 29 and Wednesday, Oct. 30, respectively.

All games will be broadcast on FOX.

World Series Schedule:

Tuesday, Oct. 22:
- World Series Game 1: Nationals at ALCS Winner. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Wednesday, Oct. 23:
- World Series Game 2: Nationals at ALCS Winner. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Friday, Oct. 25:
- World Series Game 3. ALCS Winner at Nationals. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Saturday, Oct. 26: 
- World Series Game 4. ALCS Winner at Nationals. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Sunday, Oct. 27: 
- World Series Game 5*. ALCS Winner at Nationals. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Monday, Oct. 29: 
- World Series Game 6*. Nationals at ALCS Winner. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Tuesday, Oct. 30:
- World Series Game 7*. Nationals at ALCS Winner. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

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