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Nationals win again, clinch home field for Wild Card Game

Nationals win again, clinch home field for Wild Card Game

WASHINGTON -- Tuesday’s Wild Card Game will be played in Nationals Park.

“It’s awesome,” Davey Martinez said. “I don’t have to go home and pack. Nice to stay at home. The boys wanted to stay at home. They came out and swung the bats and here we go Tuesday.”

Patrick Corbin will be involved Tuesday. He made his final regular-season start Saturday, threw 94 pitches, and is ready for his next role, which is likely left-handed reliever Tuesday. Max Scherzer will start the game.

Sunday, the Nationals can rest their regulars. Joe Ross will start. Kurt Suzuki, who felt well Saturday after catching for the first time, could play. Martinez wants Suzuki to pick up a few more at-bats before the season ends.

But, the rest of the lineup should be full of backups. Matt Adams could play first, Adrian Sanchez third, Wilmer Difo shortstop, Brian Dozier second, Michael A. Taylor left field, Victor Robles -- out sick Saturday -- in center to get another game, and Gerardo Parra in left. Taylor could later shift to center to replace Robles, Parra could flip to left and Andrew Stevenson could move to right field. Raudy Read could spell Suzuki. Aaron Barrett could finally throw a pitch in Nationals Park again.

While they work, Corbin will try to figure out what went wrong Saturday. He allowed six earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings. For all intents and purposes, it was Corbin’s second-worst outing of the season. He gave up six earned runs in 2 ⅔ innings May 31. He gave up seven runs in five innings June 11. Saturday’s start slides between those among the ones to forget.

Otherwise, Corbin’s first season in Washington was primarily a success. He finishes with a 3.25 ERA, 202 innings pitched and 238 strikeouts. It’s a replication of his 2018 season in Arizona which earned him a six-year, $140 million contract. He, like the rest of the team, now gears up for Tuesday.

The first Wild-Card Game in team history only has one participant, at the moment. Milwaukee is the likely opponent. St. Louis is a possible opponent. Both were playing later.

“We’re just happy to be in,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “At this point, we’re going to have to win games everywhere in all situations. Obviously, really happy and excited to play here, but at the end of the day, we’re going to have to win everywhere.”

The Nationals won again Saturday -- their seventh consecutive victory -- to clinch home-field for the do-or-die Wild Card Game. The winner advances to play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series on Thursday in L.A.

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Carter Kieboom has a mentor at spring training: veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera

Carter Kieboom has a mentor at spring training: veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera

With Trea Turner at shortstop and Starlin Castro at second base, the Nationals have two reliable veterans at the two positions Carter Kieboom has always played. 

So now, the Nationals' top prospect is competing for the starting third base job with seasoned veteran Asdrubal Cabrera. Once one of the best shortstops in baseball, Cabrera has fallen off defensively and has limited range nowadays, though he was still a key contributor to the Nationals' World Series championship in 2019. 

Instead of viewing Kieboom as just his competition and doing everything he can to win the job, Cabrera has taken on the role of mentor for the 22-year-old infielder.

“(Cabrera) takes ground balls with (Kieboom) every day,” Martinez said, according to MASN's Pete Kerzel. “I’ve asked him, ‘Hey, you need to take ground balls at second, too, and short sometimes.’ Religiously, for the purpose of being with Carter, he stands with Carter, helping him with his throws, making sure he understands that footwork is important when he’s throwing. ... He talks to him all the time about a bunch of different things, how to play positions, not take your at-bats to the field. He’s been unbelievable with him, he really has. It’s been good for Carter.”

Kieboom has struggled with errors through the early days of spring ball, which is to be expected considering he's a young player at a position he's never played regularly on the professional level. While a bunch of errors in February are nothing to get too concerned over, Kieboom will have to cut those down in March if he wants to win the job. 

Cabrera is seen as the backup plan at third if Kieboom can't secure the job during spring training. The 34-year-old is entering his 14th season and would probably be better maximized if he didn't have to play every day. 

If Kieboom isn't ready though, it wouldn't be the best idea for the Nationals to force it. So over the course of the next three weeks, we'll see just how much Cabrera can help the youngster. 

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Jayson Werth explains why he 'always thought' Bryce Harper could end up with Phillies

Jayson Werth explains why he 'always thought' Bryce Harper could end up with Phillies

During Phillies spring training on Friday, Jayson Werth visited his old team and former Nationals teammate Bryce Harper. It just so happened he had arrived on the one-year anniversary of Bryce Harper deciding to leave Washington to sign a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies. 

Werth spent six seasons sharing an outfield with Harper but before his days in Washington, he helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008. His play in Philadelphia earned him a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals in 2011. 

Harper's exit from DC is a sore subject for Nationals fans, even though a World Series championship definitely helped numb the pain. Werth explained in a story by NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury that he always had a hunch Harper could end up in Philly. 

"I always thought this would be a possible destination for him, even way back when, for a bunch of reasons," Werth said. "Kind of where the team was, the money was right, the owner was right, the town's right.

"But more than anything else," Werth added with widening eyes, "Citizens Bank Park is just an awesome place to hit. We always talked about that."

Werth clarified he doesn't want anyone to think he was pushing Harper to Philadelphia, just that as players they naturally had plenty of conversations about other ballparks. And it's hard to argue with that. 

Before he played a single game for the Phillies, Harper was Citizens Bank Park's all-time leader in slugging percentage. In 2019, Harper hit the second-most homers of his career (35) and his second-highest slugging percentage as well.

Werth even enjoyed a nice bump hitting in Philadelphia. During his time with the Nats, Werth his .291 with a .922 OPS to go along with 15 home runs and 45 RBI in 52 trips to Citizens Bank Park. 

Between the 81 games in a hitters ballpark and a $330 million contract without the deferred payments the Nationals reportedly offered to Harper last year, it makes a decent amount of sense he decided to take his talents north. 

But hey, the Nationals won a World Series the following season, and in epic fashion I might add, while there's no guarantee the Phillies get there any time soon. I mean, have you seen their pitching staff outside of Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler?

So Bryce is happy and Nats fans are happy. Everyone wins, right? 

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