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The Nationals really did put Bryce Harper on waivers and the Dodgers tried to claim him

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USA Today Sports

The Nationals really did put Bryce Harper on waivers and the Dodgers tried to claim him

Bryce Harper is staying with the Washington Nationals after being placed on revocable waivers as part of the team's major Tuesday shake-up that saw the departures of Matt Adams and Daniel Murphy. 

The Dodgers, who made a splash at the July 31 trade deadline with acquisitions of Manny Machado and Brian Dozier, were reportedly the mystery team that won the claim for Harper, according to Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan.

The Nationals ultimately declined the Dodgers' trade offer, which has now expired.

In order to properly understand how the Harper situation shook out, it’s important to be familiar with baseball’s waiver trade system. 

Each National League team, in order from worst to first, had the opportunity to claim Harper. When Harper was claimed, the two teams open negotiations for a trade. When the two teams failed to reach a deal, the team who placed the player on revocable waivers (Nationals) chose to pull the player back. 

This appears to be what took place Tuesday with Harper. 

Davey Martinez’s team currently sits 62-63 trailing the first-place Atlanta Braves by 7.5 games. The Nats are 3-7 in their last 10 games. 

In 122 games this season, Harper is hitting .246 with 30 home runs and 79 RBIs. 

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Where is the dent in Houston’s roster? Nowhere

Where is the dent in Houston’s roster? Nowhere

What we know: Game 1 is Tuesday night in Houston. What we don’t: who will be pitching to start it.

There are reasonable guesses. Gerrit Cole is 99 percent the choice for Houston. Max Scherzer is the likely pick for Washington -- though it could tweak the whole situation by pitching Aníbal Sánchez in Game 1. Why Sánchez? Pitching Sánchez bumps Scherzer to Games 2 and 6, Stephen Strasburg to Games 3 and 7, and gives Patrick Corbin a start as well as two chances to use him out of the bullpen. The risk is two starts for Sánchez, though he has been pitching better than Corbin in the postseason.

Moving on. 

A closer look at the Astros confirms what is assumed from afar when the 107 in the wins column is viewed. They are a juggernaut. Often, that’s hyperbole. Not here.

Houston was No. 1 in Major League Baseball in OPS against right-handed pitching this season. Usually, that’s a left-handed heavy team which would suffer to a degree on the other side. Not the Astros. They were No. 2 in OPS against left-handed pitching. Rookie Yordan Alvarez carried an OPS over 1.000 against each side. George Springer is above .900 against both sides. So is Carlos Correa. 

Flip it. Maybe the Astros’ pitching has a notable problem against one side or the other. Nope. They are No. 2 this season in OBP-against by right-handed hitters (the Nationals are a right-handed heavy lineup). They are No. 1 against left-handed hitter in the same category. 

So, well, where else? The bullpen. Try there.

Roberto Osuna is the closer. He led the American League in games finished and saves. However, Osuna has not been infallible in the postseason. His ERA is 3.52. Sean Doolittle has been more than a run better, at 2.46. Daniel Hudson has not allowed a run. The key shot against Osuna came Saturday night when DJ LeMahieu hit a game-tying homer in the top of the ninth.

Osuna mixes a lot of pitches for a closer. He throws his fastball less than 50 percent of the time, his slider 18.4 percent of the time, a cutter 13.9 percent and a changeup 18.4 percent. He’s a rarity, the four-pitch closer.

Overall, the Astros’ bullpen was second in ERA.

Here’s another way to look at it: Do the Astros own the skills to get into the Nationals’ weakest point, the middle of the bullpen? Of course they do.

Houston led MLB in walk percentage and OBP. It is able to run up pitch counts, creating the gap between the high-end starter and the relievers with juice. The soft middle, as it is, for the Nationals, a place they desperately want to avoid.

So, to recap: the starting pitching is elite. The hitters operate against both sides. The bullpen is elite. The manager has been in charge of a club for three consecutive seasons of 101 wins or more, three consecutive ALCS appearances, two World Series appearances, and one title. Juggernaut, indeed.

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Nationals to host World Series watch parties at stadium for Games 1 and 2

Nationals to host World Series watch parties at stadium for Games 1 and 2

The Nationals will open the World Series on the road, traveling to Houston to take on the Astros for the first two games before heading back to the District. But the team is intent on packing Nationals Park anyway, as the stadium will host viewing parties for each of the Nats’ road games so that fans can watch their team on the jumbotron.

Admission into the park is free, but tickets must be reserved ahead of time. Parking passes will also be available.

For the first two games of the series—both of which begin just after 8 p.m. ET—the center field gate will open at 7 p.m. NATS PLUS members also have the opportunity to reserve premium seats behind home plate and at the Budweiser Brew House.

Game 1 of the World Series begins Tuesday night, when Cy Young contenders Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole will face off in an attempt to propel their respective clubs to a 1-0 series lead.

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