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A day full of positive news passes through at Nationals Park

A day full of positive news passes through at Nationals Park

WASHINGTON -- Trevor Bauer had seen this flight path before, but it came when he turned around and launched a baseball over the center-field fence from the mound in Kansas City. The July 28 heave marked his last start for the Cleveland Indians.

Wednesday, Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon provided the emphasis for neck-craning toward center with back-to-back homers. Bauer was pummeled in the fifth when he allowed eight earned runs. The Nationals scored a season-high 10 runs in the inning. Rendon hit his career-high 26th home run. Every player in the lineup scored at least once. Stephen Strasburg even wrangled his way into a 3-2 count before flipping a single to right field to help the inning roll early.

The fifth served as a full meal, the sixth as a dessert: six more runs, a bump to a season-high 17 total, Rendon receiving an early break before Thursday’s off-day. The lead was so large, even Sean Doolittle found a way to a day off. 

By sundown, the three-game sweep was complete after a 17-7 win. Washington is a season-high 10 games over .500. The Nationals’ record would be sufficient to lead the NL Central. It’s only good for second place in the National League East where the surging Braves started the day a season-high 21 games over .500. It’s also only good for a narrow wild-card lead, 2 ½ games in front of Milwaukee, which will be in town this weekend, and 3 ½ in front of the Mets, who were playing the Braves on Wednesday night, and Phillies, who were facing the Cubs. But, it’s better than what transpired to start the season.

The long grind to 65-55 looks like this:

March: 1-2

April: 11-14

May: 12-17

June: 18-8

July: 15-10

August: 8-4

That’s 24-33 followed by 41-22. 

“No one remembers what we did in May,” Davey Martinez said. “Just keep playing the way we’re playing now and keep on rolling.”

Seventeen members of Washington’s current 25-man roster were born before 1990. In real life, that’s not a “veteran” group. In baseball terms, it’s a well-worn ensemble that thinks experience has helped them pull apart opposing starting pitchers after putting an eye on them for an inning or two. That was the case for Bauer on Wednesday. He cruised through four innings before the potholed fifth.

That inning stunned the Reds’ enigmatic pitcher. He detailed how tried to handle each hitter in the doomed fifth and was just left to scratch his head after assessing the whole pot. 

“They got a hit on my changeup, slider, four-seam, two-seam,” Bauer said. “I don't know. It's kind of confusing when you're there. I don't know what else short of throwing an eephus pitch or changing an arm angle. You're just trying to guess.”

Strutting to a 17-7 win capped a quality day for the Nationals overall. Max Scherzer started the day by saying he feels ready to get back on a major-league mound. Martinez signaled things are going well. The team set a season-high for runs scored in an inning and a game. Thursday gives everyone a break before Milwaukee arrives. 

“We’ve wanted to be tested all year. We talked about this spring training, being in a really good division,” Eaton said. “Every game matters. And I think playoff-bound teams, especially coming out of this division, are going to be very weathered and are going to see a lot of big games. We’re ready for it. We’re excited for it. It’s going to be a good weekend. And I’m excited for the fans to come out this weekend. I think that’s something that’s really going to show up for us and kind of bring the heat against them. It should be fun.”

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Don't worry about the week off, Nats fans. Joe Girardi said it was 'the most enjoyable week' of his baseball career

Don't worry about the week off, Nats fans. Joe Girardi said it was 'the most enjoyable week' of his baseball career

After sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in four games, the Washington Nationals are headed to their first World Series ever. 

While they await their opponent following the best of seven ALCS series between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, they have plenty of time to rest, causing worry for many Nats fans who believe the extra time off will disrupt their momentum. However, baseball great Joe Girardi said his week off before the 1996 Yankees World Series (which they went on to win) was "the most enjoyable week of my baseball career," Girardi said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday.

"You got a chance to relax, you got a chance to enjoy what you were preparing for, and you get a long time to think about, 'man, we're going to the World Series!'"

However, the Yankees did drop their first game of the series to the Atlanta Braves 12-1, and were shut out the second 4-0, so arguments could be made that the extra rest may have hurt their momentum. But the Yanks went on to win four in a row to win the World Series in six games, so they were able to turn it around. Girardi thinks the Nats could thrive from the extra rest.

"I think you worry about your team coming out a little flat and losing momentum, but I think you have the right personality in that clubhouse," Girardi said. "Think about how bad they were struggling and Davey [Martinez] kept it together."

Girardi added that he's a huge fan of hitting coach Kevin Long, former Yankees' hitting coach during part of Girardi's managerial career with the team. 

"You have Kevin Long, and he won't let anyone, *anyone* get complacent," Girardi said. "He will keep the boys fired up, let me tell ya. He will needle them, he will do whatever it takes to keep that edge up."

So, Nats fans. The only reason to despair is that we'll have to wait a week to watch our team play in the World Series. As someone who's been there, Girardi says they will be just fine.

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Don't underrate the 86 years D.C. waited to return to the World Series

Don't underrate the 86 years D.C. waited to return to the World Series

WASHINGTON -- High atop the scoreboard in right field at Nationals Park are four white pennant flags, three of which read '1924,' '1925' and '1933.' The fourth is blank and for a reason.

Though Nationals Park opened in 2008, that flag represents a wait of 86 years, a wait that ended on Tuesday night as the Nats swept the Cardinals in the NLCS to become the first D.C. baseball team to reach the World Series since 1933. Someday soon a brave soul will make the journey all the way up there, a hundred feet in the air, to replace it with a pennant that says '2019.'

The Nationals still have four wins to go to capture baseball's ultimate prize, but by reaching the World Series they have already given the city of Washington something it has not experienced for the better part of a century.

In order to remember the last time the Nats were in the Fall Classic, you would have to be in your 90s. Surely, there are some Nationals fans out there who can recall those days. But for the vast majority of Washingtonians witnessing this magical postseason run, it is something entirely unfamiliar.

Some Nationals players were shocked simply to hear how long it's been after they ended the drought on Tuesday night.

"That's crazy. It still hasn't totally sunk in yet," reliever Sean Doolittle said. "I'm rarely speechless."

"Welcome back," outfielder Adam Eaton said, speaking to Nats fans. "It's taken a long time."

People from the D.C. area who have been around long enough can speak to how the city has changed; from the turbulent 1960s to the turbulent 1980s, to how neighborhoods like Chinatown have completely transformed, to how the nearby suburbs of Northern Virginia were rural countryside not long ago.

Back in 1933, there was no Jefferson Memorial. Construction started in 1939, the same year World War II began. The White House didn't have an East Wing. That came in 1942.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inauguration was in 1933. He threw out the first pitch of Game 3 of the World Series that year when the Senators fell in five games to the New York Giants.

Back then, the Senators played at Griffith Stadium in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Nowadays, Howard University Hospital stands in its place.

Eighty six years is long enough that every member of that 1933 Senators team has since passed. The last one to go was utilityman Cecil Travis, who died at the age of 93 back in 2006, 13 years ago.

That 1933 team had Hall of Fame players like Goose Goslin and Sam Rice. It had some Hall of Fame names as well like General Crowder and Heinie Manush.

Back then, baseball was different. Their home run leader, Joe Kuhel, only hit 11 bombs. Meanwhile, their pitching wins leader, Crowder, won 24 games, lost 15 and logged 299 1/3 innings.

Most of us alive today really have no clue what life was like back then. But Nationals owner Ted Lerner does. Tuesday happened to be his 94th birthday and he had a good time celebrating it. Lerner stood on the stage in the middle of the field as his team was presented the NL championship trophy and issued a message to the crowd.

"I want to tell our fans; this is for you," he said.

Lerner knows how long this moment was in the making for Washington, D.C., though a lot of people outside of town may underrate what the city has been through. Many view the Nationals as the franchise that moved from Montreal, the team that has only existed in its current form since 2005. But Washington as a city has waited much longer than 14 years to play in the World Series.

D.C. may have not had a major league team from 1971, when the Senators left to become the Texas Rangers, until 2005, but eighty six years is eighty six years. That's exactly how long the Curse of the Bambino lasted in Boston. The Red Sox broke their World Series-winning drought in 2004, but they had at least been there four times in that span. They also lost in the ALCS another four times. As Nats fans now know, just getting that far is plenty of fun.

Plus, baseball isn't really about the big things, it's about the little things and you don't get those when you don't have a team. You don't get to enjoy Opening Days and walk-off wins and young players developing into stars before your eyes. You don't get hot dogs and cold beers in the sun on a June afternoon.

Washington missed that for decades and they have missed going to the World Series for a lot longer than most of their fans have been alive. As bottles pop around the region, here's to a city that has waited patiently for a very long time to get back to this point.

"This fanbase has been starving for a winner," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "They deserve it."

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