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Wild-card tracker: Cubs drop out of wild-card spot -- for now

Wild-card tracker: Cubs drop out of wild-card spot -- for now

The Nationals took Thursday off. But, they kept hold of their wild-card lead during the break.

Chicago lost to St. Louis in 10 innings. The Cubs are on a three-game losing streak, which became enough Thursday for them to slip out of a wild-card spot. Milwaukee beat lowly San Diego.

So, the Nationals open a three-game series in Miami on Friday with a one-game lead on the Brewers for the right to host the Wild-Card Game on Oct. 1. The Cubs are two games behind Washington and a game behind Milwaukee. They also have a distinct challenge going forward: Six of their remaining nine games are against St. Louis. Splitting those and sweeping Pittsburgh -- the series in between dates with St. Louis -- only gets the Cubs to 88 wins.

The idle Mets moved to 3 ½ games behind Milwaukee. Philadelphia lost to start the day, which put it four games out of a wild-card spot with 11 to go on its schedule.

Coming up Friday:

St. Louis at Chicago, 2:20 p.m., Wacha (6-7, 4.76 ERA) vs. Mills (1-0, 3.42)

Washington at Miami, 7:10 p.m. Sánchez (9-8, 3.86) vs. Dugger (0-2, 3.95)

New York at Cincinnati, 7:10 p.m., deGrom (9-8, 2.61) vs. Castillo (155-6, 3.22)

Philadelphia at Cleveland, 7:10 p.m., Smyly (4-6, 6.22) vs. Bieber (14-7, 3.26)

Pittsburgh at Milwaukee, 8:10 p.m., Brault (4-5, 4.96) vs. Anderson (6-4, 4.50)

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TBS crew explains how Nationals can avoid losing momentum with time off

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USA Today Sports Images

TBS crew explains how Nationals can avoid losing momentum with time off

The Nationals have earned their first-ever World Series berth after sweeping the Cardinals in the NLCS. That’s the good news.

The bad news? Only one team in Major League Baseball history to sweep a seven-game League Championship Series has ever gone on to win the World Series.

After the Nationals joined the ranks of teams to sweep their opponents in an LCS, the TBS postgame broadcast crew broke down how to avoid similar pitfalls to previous teams.

Between Jimmy Rollins, Curtis Granderson and Gary Sheffield, there were arguments made for both the benefits of rest and staying sharp. But ultimately, all three emphasized the importance of staying focused.

“You can’t simulate that type of emotion that you go through in an NLCS, nor when the world series starts,” Rollins explained. “You try to use it as rest. Mentally, you’re on. You’re thinking about execution, you’re thinking about who you may face as you’re watching the games, and gameplanning. You have to do something mentally. Physically, you’re body’s naturally going to shut down for a day or two, then you have to get on the field, get on a treadmill, start throwing and get it revved back up...usually this long of a break is the only thing that stops momentum. Hopefully that’s not the case.”

Granderson chimed in, speaking from more experience than most. The outfielder played on two of the previous eight teams to sweep an LCS, twice falling short in the Fall Classic.

“Unfortunately, I got to be on two of those teams that swept the [LCS], went to the World Series, and we couldn’t finally pick up that championship ring,” Granderson lamented. “The one recommendation I would make for a team, and I’m still trying to figure it out because I did it twice and it didn’t work out, try to keep the same schedule. If you had lost tonight, you would have been playing tomorrow. So get the boys back to the ballpark.”

There are still some opportunities to rest, even if a team doesn’t take a full week off.

“I know you want to give everybody some rest, but I think that rest is what we talked about that kind of hurts the hitters,” Martinez continued. “It helps the pitchers, but at the same time if we would have lost, we would have been back on the field, so let’s get on the field, that would have been Game 5, then there would have been a little bit of a break. Let’s take that normal break, let’s get back on the field like there would have been a Game 6, and let’s also watch that other series...all of us couldn’t find that magic key to get themselves ready for the World Series. Maybe get back on the field again tomorrow, and that could help.”

There are plenty of possible explanations. The easy narrative, as the broadcast crew alluded to, is the classic “rest vs. momentum” debate, one of the oldest, most oft-cited in sports. The Nationals, and other LCS-sweepers before them, will have entered the World Series after a long respite, getting them out of their daily routines.

On the other hand, they’ll be fully rested. And they’ll have the luxury of lining up their starting rotation exactly how they’d like it.

The most obvious explanation is a small sample size: the Nationals are only the ninth team in baseball history to sweep an LCS since the league expanded to the seven-game format in 1985. Only one team of the previous eight (Atlanta in 1995) going on to win the title sounds unlikely, but is entirely within the realm of possibility. Even that World Series was close, as all but one game between the Braves and Indians were decided by a single run.

Ultimately, Sheffield sums it up well.

“This goes back to the old saying,” the former World Series champion described. “You can’t turn it off and turn it on. That’s why you’ve always got to stay on.”

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Gerardo Parra wants a Baby Shark tattoo if the Nationals win the World Series

Gerardo Parra wants a Baby Shark tattoo if the Nationals win the World Series

Baby Shark took over the Nationals' second half of the season and it could live on forever if they win the World Series.

The song plays every time Gerardo Parra comes to the plate. The crowds love it. They participate in a giant group clap. It is an internet sensation. His teammates love it.

And after the Nationals won the National League Championship Series, Parra said in an interview on MLB Network that he wants to get the Baby Shark tattooed on his chest wearing his signature sunglasses and holding the World Series trophy if Washington goes on to win.

"I wanna do a tattoo with a baby shark, my sunglasses and the trophy," Parra said.

You cannot make this stuff up. Somebody will have to come up with a sweet design for Parra if the Nationals go on to win the World Series. He should probably do it anyway, but it would be cooler if they win.

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