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Nationals vs. Dodgers: A seven-game 2019 regular season history lesson

Nationals vs. Dodgers: A seven-game 2019 regular season history lesson

It's finally here. The 2019 NLDS matchup between the Nationals and Dodgers gets underway Thursday night with Patrick Corbin taking the mound to face Walker Buehler in Los Angeles.

For Corbin, of course, this game and series is the reason the Nationals brought him into the fold. For the Nationals, this is the second time in four seasons they'll meet the Dodgers in the NLDS. Last time, in 2016, the Dodgers won Game 5 in Nationals Park, 4-3, after the Nationals had a two-games-to-one lead entering Game 4.

There's plenty of buzz about the Nationals being the team that best matches up with the Dodgers. As it stands, the Dodgers are the biggest obstacle standing between the Nationals and a World Series appearance. The teams played the seven-game regular-season series about as evenly as possible, with the Dodgers edging the Nationals for a 4-3 lead.

Here's how each of those games played out:

1. Game 37: Washington (15-22) at Los Angeles (25-15). Friday, May 10

Result: Nationals win, 6-0

Season series: Nationals lead 1-0

How it Happened: Corbin validated the Nationals' decision to sign him. He pitched seven shutout innings, striking out eight. Howie Kendrick jumped on Rich Hill early, blasting a 3-run homer in the first, then Washington tacked on three late insurance runs.

2. Game 38: Washington (15-23) at Los Angeles (26-15). Saturday, May 11

Result: Dodgers win, 5-0

Season series: Tied, 1-1

How it Happened: Joc Pederson hit a pair of solo home runs, one in the first and one in the fifth. Kenta Maeda tossed six scoreless innings as the Dodgers offense tagged Anibal Sanchez for three runs in 4.1 innings.

3. Game 39: Washington (16-23) at Los Angeles (26-16). Sunday, May 12

Result: Nationals win, 5-2

Season series: Nationals lead, 2-1

How it Happened: Justin Turner hit a two-run homer off Max Scherzer in the third inning, which was the game's only score entering the eighth inning. The Nationals loaded the bases before Juan Soto's single brought them within one. Then Gerardo Parra sent a blast to deep right-center, a grand slam that put the Nationals up, 5-2, the game's final score. Scherzer struck out seven in seven innings.

4. Game 40: Washington (16-24) at Los Angeles (27-16). Monday, May 13

Result: Dodgers win, 6-0

Season series: Tied, 2-2

How it Happened: Hyun-Jin Ryu took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and the bullpen helped blank the Nationals to split the four-game set. Strasburg only allowed two runs in six innings, and the game was within reach when Ryu's no-hitter was broken up. The Nationals didn't score, though, and Corey Seager's grand slam in the bottom of the eighth put the game out of reach. It was the third shutout of the four-game series.

5. Game 103: Los Angeles (68-37) at Washington (55-48). Saturday, July 27

Result: Dodgers win, 4-2

Season series: Dodgers lead, 3-2

How it Happened: The Dodgers got to Sanchez early again, scoring one in the top of the first. The Nationals tied the game in the bottom of the seventh, as Victor Robles scored on an Adam Eaton single. Parra, the would-be go-ahead run, was thrown out at the plate. Turner hit a three-run homer in the top of the eighth to put the Dodgers back on top. One run in the bottom of the ninth wasn't enough for the Nationals.

6. Game 104: Los Angeles (69-37) at Washington (55-49). Sunday, July 28

Result: Dodgers win, 9-3

Season series: Dodgers lead, 4-2

How it Happened: Dodgers rookie catcher had a home run and six RBI on a 3-for-3 day at the play. That was more than enough to take down the Nationals, who could only muster three runs against Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles bullpen. 

7. Game 105: Los Angeles (69-38) at Washington (56-49). Monday, July 29

Result: Nationals win, 11-4

Season series: Dodgers lead, 4-3

How it Happened: Strasburg racked up his then-MLB-leading 14th win with a seven-inning, nine-strikeout performance. He didn't walk a batter and allowed just one run on the day. The Dodgers led after the top of the fifth, but three runs from the Nats in the bottom of the fifth and then four each in the sixth and eighth was too much for the Dodgers.

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All eyes turn to Anthony Rendon at the Winter Meetings after Gerrit Cole signs

All eyes turn to Anthony Rendon at the Winter Meetings after Gerrit Cole signs

SAN DIEGO -- News of Gerrit Cole’s gargantuan contract swept through the Winter Meetings late Tuesday night. A bustling lobby temporarily stalled as everyone looked at their phones then each other. It was true. Cole signed for $325 million to play in New York. 

Which means the third -- and for all intents and purposes final -- day of the meetings will focus on Anthony Rendon. He is now the premier player available in the free agent market. Cole and Stephen Strasburg signed. Rendon should be next.

Much of Tuesday before the Cole news revolved around Rendon. Agent Scott Boras stood atop a Pelican case -- a hard box used to protect television cameras -- in front of a Boras Corp. standing backdrop. There was symmetry between Boras on the box and what it usually holds. He’s naturally drawn to camera equipment.

There, ringed by reporters who largely couldn’t hear or just watched the spectacle, Boras spoke in generalizations about Rendon’s status. Yes, several teams have inquired about Rendon. Yes, seven years is the marker for a contract. Yes, negotiations are ongoing.

Where are the Nationals in this? That is more difficult to pin down. Rendon remains a curious challenge to read in the offseason. He made jokes at the World Series about not wanting to play until he was 35. He turns 30 years old next season. Does nostalgia have pull for him, either in Washington or back in Texas? Is it simply about money?

Asked about Nationals’ managing principal owner Mark Lerner saying the team could only afford Strasburg or Rendon, Boras moved to what has become the Deferred Money Defense. Around $80 million of Strasburg’s $245 million will be put off until after his contract ends. Boras contends wiggle room now exists for the Nationals. Reminder: it’s also his job to drive the market.

“I think Mark’s comments were before the Strasburg negotiations were complete,” Boras said. “And that contract structure that Stephen did allowed certainly an opening and a consideration that probably the Nationals were available to them in their decision making. So I think it’s something that clearly opens doors for them. And when you look at their payroll structure, and the amount of money they have in the $60-$70 million range with their payroll, I think they can sign not only an Anthony Rendon but many players.”

Mike Rizzo was slightly dismissive of Boras’ take when talking to reporters inside his hotel room suite. He’s often taken the position they know Rendon better than anyone, so the amount of times both sides converse is a bit overrated.

“We’ve had conversations about Anthony throughout the process,” Rizzo said. “I don’t get my daily update from Scott, but we’re in communication, and I don’t sense anything is imminent at this point. But that was a while ago, so you never know.”

Read that back. Rizzo talked about Rendon throughout, dropped a dig at Boras, stated nothing is imminent, then countered that claim by saying “you never know.” The last time he said no movement was imminent came almost a year ago. He traded Tanner Roark a couple hours later.

Rizzo is checking on trades, Josh Donaldson and piecemeal as possible Rendon alternatives. There is no equivalent player remaining on the market. So, a transaction involving him is now imminent, to borrow a word. It’s just a question of where.

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Stephen Strasburg reportedly lobbying for Anthony Rendon to return to the Nationals

Stephen Strasburg reportedly lobbying for Anthony Rendon to return to the Nationals

With the MLB offseason just getting underway, Stephen Strasburg has already accomplished his main goal. Signing a massive seven-year, $245 million deal with the Nationals on Monday, he got the money and the opportunity to return to the team he started his career and won a World Series with.

Now, he's focused on completing his second goal of the offseason: bring back Anthony Rendon.

Strasburg is reportedly heavily involved in trying to bring the MVP-caliber third baseman back to DC as the pitcher is making his case to both Rendon and the Nationals front office, according to MASN's Mark Zuckerman.

When Strasburg inked his contract on Monday, many believed it meant the end of the line for the Nationals chances to re-sign Rendon, as Nationals owner Mark Lerner even mentioned it would be hard to sign both. However, it appears that the pitcher is thinking anything but that. Besides reportedly getting involved in the pitch to Rendon, Strasburg also seemed to have Rendon in mind when figuring out the terms to his new deal.

Within the total amount of money, Strasburg's contract features $80 million in deferred money, which can help the Nationals work toward potentially signing other players. Scott Boras, the agent to both Rendon and Strasburg, alluded to that on Tuesday saying that Strasburg's deal could create a new "opening" in the Rendon negotiations.

Even if the deferred money from Strasburg and his dedication to trying to get Rendon back may help, it won't be that easy for the Nationals. Boras said on Tuesday that Rendon has already received more than a few seven-year offers, meaning that he'll come with a hefty price tag.

However, Zuckerman did report that Rendon may be slowly becoming more open to the idea of deferred money in his contract, something that didn't look to be a possibility at first, citing Strasburg's decision and Washington's ability to continue to contend as factors.

Getting Anthony Rendon back to the Nationals won't happen as fast as it did with Strasburg, if it happens at all. Yet plenty of Nationals fans want the team to do whatever it takes to make it happen, and Strasburg looks to be in the same boat.

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