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What's at stake for the Nationals today

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What's at stake for the Nationals today

Last night's rainout created an old-fashioned, single-admission doubleheader for the Nationals and Dodgers later today. It also created a scenario in which the Nats could end the night having clinched the city's first playoff berth since 1933.

With a magic number of 3 to secure the final NL Wild Card berth, the Nationals would clinch with any combination of three victories andor losses by the team currently in third place in the Wild Card race. That team happens to be the Dodgers.

Thus, a win in today's 4:05 p.m. opener would drop the magic number to 1 (and ensure at the very least the Nationals will get to play a 163rd game this season). A win in the nightcap (scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m. or 30 minutes after conclusion of the first game, whichever comes later) would then seal the deal and guarantee the Nats a spot in the postseason.

If you're planning to attend the doubleheader -- here's the ticket exchange policy in case you missed it -- don't expect a major celebration should the Nationals pull off the sweep. There won't be a dog pile at the center of the mound, nor champagne flowing in the clubhouse.

"That's not a big moment," manager Davey Johnson said over the weekend in Atlanta. "It's a nice moment, but it's not a big moment. The additional Wild Card, to me, just really put more of a burden on the manager, because nobody wants that one. A one-game playoff to get in? The other format, if you were the Wild Card, you're in the playoffs. So clinching a one-game playoff doesn't have any appeal at all to me."

The Nationals, as always, remain focused on the NL East title. And they drew a step closer to that last night, even though they never set foot on the field. By virtue of the Braves' wild, 10-inning loss in Miami, the Nats' magic number to clinch the division dropped to 10. Their lead over Atlanta is now 5 12 games.

Keep in mind the Nationals still have 16 games to play, but the Braves only have 13 games to play. That's fewer opportunities for Atlanta to make up ground, a real disadvantage considering they're now 7 games back in the loss column.

We'll have a much clearer idea of how things stand by the end of the night, with the Nationals playing two games and the Braves playing one. By 10 p.m. or so, the Nationals' lead in the division could be as big as 7 games. Or it could be as small as 4 games.

That all makes for one long -- and potentially dramatic -- day of baseball.

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What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

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USA Today Sports

What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer had a heated exchange in the Nationals dugout Friday night.

It was another not-so-great moment in an otherwise unspectacular season for the Nats so far.

Things like this often appear worse than they are based on what we can see, not hear, on television. In any case, it has fans and pundits talking about a perceived off-the-field issue instead of the actual game. There's nothing "good" about this, but there are important factors that are "bad" and ones that are "not bad."

Davey Martinez, Strasburg and Scherzer already said this has been settled and wasn't a big deal in the first place, but for a manager who's already faced some scrutiny this year for how he manages his pitchers, having two of them go at it in the dugout isn't ideal.

It also doesn't present the best optics for a team that came out of the All-Star Break 5.5 games back of the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals need to build some momentum heading into the dog days of summer, and after a lackluster first half, this isn't how anybody would want to start the second half.

This was also Strasburg's first start back from a month-long stint on the disabled list. Ryan Zimmerman just rejoined the club as well. Things are shaping up to make for a solid second-half run, but all this does is detract from that.

The Nationals also just hosted the first All-Star Game in Washington since 1969. Having something like this happen in the dugout where everybody can see it takes away from some of that good publicity.

But there are also positives, or at least non-negatives, to take from this. Scherzer has always been ultracompetitive, and as the best pitcher on the staff, he needs to harness that into leadership. With Strasburg coming off a rough inning, Scherzer may have thought he needed a little tough love from a veteran. There's nothing wrong with that. Strasburg, to his credit, has never been one to focus too much on himself, so if there's anyone who can take something like this constructively, it'd be him.

This isn't Jonathan Paplebon fighting Bryce Harper for not running out a pop fly the day after the Nats were eliminated from playoff contention. These are two veteran guys who play the same position who are both competitive and want to win. It's akin to an older brother pushing his younger brother to do better. Strasburg even hinted at the family aspect after the game.

In the end, there's really nothing to see here. Frustration is part of the game. Talking it out is a part of remedying the frustration.

What really matters is tracking down the Braves and the Phillies. The Nationals can get started on that Sunday in the second game of a rain-shortened two-game series against the Braves.

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Saturday's Nationals game rained out, to be postponed

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Saturday's Nationals game rained out, to be postponed

Following a dicey matchup between the Nats and Braves Friday night which featured a heated argument between Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are getting a much-needed opportunity to regroup.

The Washington Nationals' official Twitter account announced that Saturday evening's matchup will be postponed due to inclement weather just after 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

The Nationals had planned to host "JMU Night" at the ballpark as a part of their "College Day" series, and due to more forecasted inclement weather Sunday, the Nationals decided to call the game off sooner rather than later.

The Nationals have yet to announce when the game will be made up.

If Sunday's game is played as scheduled, Max Scherzer will start.

This post will be updated when more information regarding a makeup date has been announced.

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