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The Nationals signed Patrick Corbin to beat the Dodgers. His chance comes Thursday

The Nationals signed Patrick Corbin to beat the Dodgers. His chance comes Thursday

WASHINGTON -- Patrick Corbin is up next. That’s what is known for Game 1, that’s what was expected when he signed in the offseason.

He came to the District charged with being a third No. 1 starter and to fight the class of the National League, Los Angeles. 

The Nationals dried off, cleaned up and boarded a plane for Los Angeles on Wednesday morning. A 7 p.m. workout is slated at Dodgers Stadium, replacing what looked increasingly for most of Tuesday's Wild-Card game like a day for cleaning out lockers and say goodbyes. The best-of-five National League Division Series begins Thursday night at Dodgers Stadium. 

“We just said we wanted an opportunity, we wanted a chance,” Kurt Suzuki said. “I know one thing for a fact: nobody wants to play us right now.”

Washington has won nine consecutive games, including Tuesday night’s heart-stopper against Milwaukee. Juan Soto rescued the night from being installed with other grim elimination-game outcomes. Corbin takes the ball Thursday against an organization he knows and has controlled.

"They’ve seen me a lot. I’ve seen them," he said. "There’s no surprises, really. They have different lineups for lefties and righties. They’re a very deep team, that’s why they’re able to do stuff like that. They’ve been really good for a long time now. They’re tough, it’s not an easy lineup to go through, but if you can make your pitches, it’s really all you’re trying to do."

Corbin has a career 3.36 ERA against the Dodgers. He faced them often as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, using his fastball-slider combination to slow one of the league’s best offenses year after year. The trend carried into this season in his one start against Los Angeles: seven shutout innings and just three hits. 

The Nationals also stacked up well against the league-leading Dodgers as a group. They went 3-4 in seven games, scoring 27 runs and allowing 30. Gerardo Parra’s grand slam in Los Angeles signaled his arrival as a lightning bolt for the season. 

Most of the units match up well: The teams are 1-2 in runs scored this season in the National League. They are first and eighth, respectively in ERA. Dragging Washington to eighth is its troubling bullpen, which finished the season 29th in ERA. The starting rotations were 1-2 in ERA (the Dodgers again leading the way). So, much of this will come down to the bullpen, as it has all season.

But, the Nationals have finally won an elimination game to enter what they believe can be a strength, an extended series. They can lean harder on their rotation than in a do-or-die game. Their offense receives more time to manipulate and produce. However, those things are also true of Los Angeles, a team without any alarming weakness the way Washington’s bullpen. 

“One of the best, if not the best team in baseball,” Ryan Zimmerman said of the Dodgers. “Obviously a tall task. We’re going to enjoy [Tuesday] but know we’ve got to flight out West and play a really good baseball team. But, we have a really good baseball team, too. So, it will be a good series and [we’re] just happy to move on.”

The Dodgers are aligned and rested. Hyun-Jin Ryu is on full rest and ready to start Game 1. No one had to travel. They have home-field and the better front-to-back roster. In essence, Washington starts in a hole, which is the concept it has dealt with all season. To this point, it’s also always found a way out.

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The ageless Fernando Rodney to reportedly play in Dominican Winter League

The ageless Fernando Rodney to reportedly play in Dominican Winter League

Only one player in the major leagues threw a pitch while over the age of 40 last season. Fernando Rodney, who in fact is 42 and coming off his first ever World Series title, has appeared in at least 50 games each of the last eight years and 10 of the last 11.

For a player who’s three years older than the second-oldest active pitcher, taking the offseason off wouldn’t just be expected—it’d probably be recommended. But Rodney is taking no such break, reportedly signing up for the Dominican Winter League this offseason.

Leones del Escogido plays in his hometown of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. This will actually be the fifth time Rodney will suit up for the team, most recently doing so last winter.

Rodney is a free agent after being picked up by the Nationals midseason. He’s played 17 years in the majors and ranks 17th all-time in saves with 327.

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How big of a priority is filling the hole at second base for the Nationals?

How big of a priority is filling the hole at second base for the Nationals?

When the Nationals entered the offseason, they had significant needs at seven different areas of the roster: catcher, first base, second base, third base, rotation, bullpen and bench.

Washington made strides toward solidifying the first two by inking catcher Yan Gomes and first baseman Howie Kendrick to separate deals over the first five weeks of the offseason. But with former stars Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon both still on the board, there are still many different directions the Nationals could go this winter.

On this week’s episode of the Nationals Talk podcast, NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas sat down with Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post and MLB.com’s Jamal Collier to talk about the team’s offseason plans. With the needs the Nationals have in so many areas, the writers agreed Washington didn’t need to prioritize second base.

“Second base, to me, feels like it would probably be the last thing on my checklist if I’m the Nats,” Collier said. “You’re going to operate on some kind of budget and you have to spend money on re-signing [Stephen] Strasburg, figuring out whatever you’re going to do at third base…and you have to do something with this bullpen as well.”

Right now, the Nationals have top prospect Carter Kieboom as a potential option to take the starting job out of Spring Training. They also have veteran utility players Wilmer Difo and Adrian Sanchez on the roster, but neither has been able to produce consistently on the offensive end.

“I would probably band-aid it with probably a cheaper option than Brian Dozier,” Dougherty said. “Maybe even give Carter the shot but have a veteran behind him…César Hernández makes a ton of sense to me. He’s a switch hitter, he can play multiple positions, you have a hole at utility player.”

Dybas also mentioned Starlin Castro as a potential option. Castro played all 162 games for the Miami Marlins last season, hitting .270 with a career-high 22 home runs. He’ll be 30 years old on Opening Day and was lauded by his former club for his clubhouse presence.

One potential option that came off the board in recent weeks was Mike Moustakas, who inked a four-year, $64 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds. A natural third baseman, Moustakas played 47 games at second for the Milwaukee Brewers last season and is now entrenched there for the Reds moving forward with Eugenio Suarez playing third.

“I hate that Moustakas deal,” Collier said. The Reds are “putting him out of position. He’s not a second baseman. So you’re getting worse defensively for a guy who’s pretty much all power. We don’t know what the shape of the ball is going to be [and] he’s only getting older.”

It was certainly a high price tag, which likely took the Nationals out of the running if second base is an area the team is hoping to save money on. But they also could’ve signed Moustakas to play third, a position that is remarkably light on talent in free agency.

For the full episode, which also includes discussions about Rendon and Strasburg’s prospects of returning to Washington, you can find the Nationals Talk podcast at Art19, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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