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Mike Rizzo: 'We've been playing playoff style baseball since the end of May'

Mike Rizzo: 'We've been playing playoff style baseball since the end of May'

The Nationals are finally in the NLCS, and that's no small feat.

The team was 19–31 heading into June after an embarrassing four-game sweep against the Mets, and GM Mike Rizzo knew the team needed a different mindset to flip the switch.

"I often say that we've been playing playoff-style baseball since the end of May because of the hole that we built for ourselves early on in the season," Rizzo said on the Sports Junkies Friday morning. "That's gonna be our mindset going into this and it's gonna take everything we have to beat a really good Cardinals team."

The Nationals needed a sublime season from Juan Soto, an MVP-contender one from Anthony Rendon and some serious pitching performances to get to this point. And, of course, a little help from Howie Kendrick.

And now, the Nats are focused on the task at hand with a Cardinals team known to make serious noise in the postseason.

"We're up for the challenge and at the end of the day we're gonna feel good about ourselves when we get back home, " Rizzo said.

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Yan Gomes was briefly a free agent but didn't want to 'restart' with a whole new team

Yan Gomes was briefly a free agent but didn't want to 'restart' with a whole new team

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There was a brief time last offseason when Yan Gomes was a free agent. This was new. He had just won the World Series, everything was fantastic, a $9 million team option existed on his contract, then he was unemployed. Briefly. 

“Right out of the get-go, you start the offseason kind of becoming a free agent,” Gomes told NBC Sports Washington. “There wasn’t like a doubt that I wanted to come back. I made it known to them. We started having conversations. It didn’t start for a few weeks, almost a month. It was my first time being in free agency like that. I was [expletive] stressed out. But, once we started having our conversations it happened really fast. It was literally within three days and they offered and I said, 'Yeah.'”

Gomes could have been insulted by the team declining his option. He could have taken the brief time he was a free agent to really push another team. Instead, he told Washington he wanted to return, had shallow conversations with other teams, then signed as soon as he could. So, why? 

“Comfort level for sure,” Gomes said. “Knowing this team and really loving the guys and everything here. But it became, really, a family decision of almost wanting to stay on the East Coast. We live in Tennessee and the kids are going to school, and I would have thought of going somewhere out West  -- which, you know, after two years we’ll see how that goes -- but we wanted to stay closer, and D.C. being perfect, I didn’t want to do the whole restart, whole new team. I think it really just came down to the comfort level that I had here. The friendships that we built so quickly, I just kind of wanted to stay around.”

Gomes’ first season in Washington went poorly. His offense dipped, his work behind the plate resulted in a career high in passed balls and wild pitches (if the catcher blocks these, the number goes down). His caught-stealing percentage was also below his career average.

However, his offense picked up in September, which coincided with Kurt Suzuki’s elbow injury and more playing time. Gomes made 21 starts and produced an .850 OPS. His OPS for the season was just .704.

Gomes made 358 plate appearances during the regular season. Suzuki made 309. Their pitcher-pairings were clear: Suzuki caught Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Aníbal Sánchez. Gomes caught Patrick Corbin and the rotating cast of fifth starters. In spring training, Suzuki will be over with Corbin more often in case he needs to handle the left-hander during the regular season. Davey Martinez expects their playing-time share to be similar to last year no matter who they are catching.

“I like to think we could do the same thing, but we’ve got to be very careful,” Martinez said. “I know Suzuki looks good and ready to go, but we have to be very conscious of his injuries last year. I know Yan could catch every day. We’ll see how spring training goes. I definitely would like to keep it the same.”

Which is also what Gomes wanted. More of the same, so he's back in West Palm Beach for two more years.

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Jose Altuve shows he does, in fact, have a tattoo on his left collarbone

Jose Altuve shows he does, in fact, have a tattoo on his left collarbone

After Carlos Correa defended Jose Altuve's highly-speculated decision to ask his teammates not to rip his shirt off due to an unfinished, "bad" tattoo on his left collarbone, and not because of exposing a buzzer as many have thought, Altuve showed off the tat while walking by reporters Monday.

ESPN's Jeff Passan says Altuve walked past reporters shirtless and a collarbone tattoo was present.

Former Baltimore Oriole Adam Jones was one of many not buying Correa's story, which could be why Altuve felt it necessary to give people a glimpse of his ink.

Whether this was intentional by Altuve or not is up for speculation, but it certainly proves there is, in fact, a tattoo on his left collarbone as Correa said.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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