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One bad pitch foils Sánchez’s night, tightens wild-card race

One bad pitch foils Sánchez’s night, tightens wild-card race

That slider down the middle of the plate in the seventh inning cost the Nationals extra breathing room in the standings. José Berríos helped, too.

Aníbal Sánchez threw a center-cut slider to Mitch Garver to foil a night of mastery Tuesday. He allowed three hits to that point. One was a double to the previous batter, Eddie Rosario. Sánchez’s 0-1 pitch to Garver -- who had 29 homers in just 277 at-bats coming into the game -- ended up deep in the left field seats. Twins led, 2-0. It was enough during a 4-0 Washington loss.

Berríos made sure it was enough with one of the stranger lines possible. He threw 94 pitches. They produced just four swinging strikes, but 20 called strikes and 21 foul balls. Only 18 balls were put in play.

Being shut down in Minnesota dropped the Nationals to 2-6 in their last eight games. It’s their worst stretch since going 2-5 at the end of July, and the repercussions are becoming real.

Philadelphia won on Tuesday to gain a game. So did the New York Mets. Milwaukee won, too. Chicago lost, 9-8, in extra innings at San Diego. Reliever Steve Cishek delivered a walk-off walk to the Padres.

The Cubs remain 2 ½ games behind the Nationals. Milwaukee is 3 ½ games back, and just a game behind Chicago, though it lost reigning MVP Christian Yelich for the year Wednesday because of a broken kneecap. The Phillies are 4 ½ back. Arizona is five back, the Mets 5 ½.

Washington’s recent recoil has put the division title out of the question. It’s also beginning to influence its wild-card chances. Fivethirtyeight.com dropped the Nationals’ postseason chances to 91 percent following Tuesday’s loss. Alarming? No. Down rapidly the last week? Yes. 

Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are up next in Minnesota. The Twins send two mediocre pitchers to the mound. A salvageable series still exists in the Midwest. The Nationals just need to grab it.

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Davey Martinez wasn't focused on the Astros stealing signs during the World Series

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Davey Martinez wasn't focused on the Astros stealing signs during the World Series

Stealing signs is part of the game of baseball.

Using technology, such as cameras to steal signs as the Houston Astros are currently under investigation by the MLB for doing, is not.

Hearing rumors about the Astros' alleged sign-stealing, the Nationals came into the 2019 World Series with a plan to combat it by adapting their signs, but according to Nationals manager Davey Martinez, the focus was always on how to win.

“You know for me and for everything we talked about, I didn’t want to get into any series and worry about what the other team does," Martinez told NBC Sports Washington Monday at MLB's Winter Meetings. "I wanted to focus on what we can do and how we can attack the opponents and win games and that was our focus. Yeah, you know we changed some signs around, we did some different things but the focus was always about how we can beat the Houston Astros and not how we think that they’re gonna play us.”

Regarding the use of technology, Martinez says "it's out there," and looks to repercussions the MLB puts in place to prevent this from happening again.

"I know MLB is doing an unbelievable job trying to fix the issues so we’ll see what happens," Martinez said. 

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ESPN releases Sunday Night Baseball schedule, Nationals make zero appearances

ESPN releases Sunday Night Baseball schedule, Nationals make zero appearances

ESPN released its Sunday Night Baseball schedule for the 2020 season and the World Series Champion Nationals are not on it. 

The Mets are scheduled to play three times on baseball's prime time television slot, while the Dodgers are set to appear three times as well. The Braves are the only other NL East team scheduled to play. 

Here's a look at the schedule so far. 

As you can probably tell, there's plenty of Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers in there.

There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Nationals' roster due to Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon's free agencies, but come on. The Mets?

On the chance the Nationals lose both Strasburg and Rendon in free agency, they still have a great chance at being competitive and intriguing all year. 

Sunday Night Baseball is supposed to be the biggest game of the week and to not have the defending champions once feels wrong regardless of your allegiances.

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