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Can Nationals make the playoffs?
Remember a few days ago, when the National League playoff picture was all but set -- at least in terms of which five teams would vie for the pennant? Not anymore. The Washington Nationals are soaring, winners of 10 of 11 after their valiant two-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves a day after tragedy struck the nation's capital. The team still sits 4.5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the race for the second wild-card spot. But with the kind of talent on the Nats, would it be that surprising if the final 11 games delivered joy to D.C.?
Harper, Strasburg and the Nationals
Washington Nationals star pitcher Stephen Strasburg <a href="http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=9385258">is set to return to the mound Sunday</a>, after spending time on the DL with a lat strain. Meanwhile, standout outfielder Bryce Harper got good news from Dr. James Andrews on his ailing knee and could be back next week. This, of course, is good news for the Nats, who entered the season as a popular World Series pick but who enter Friday at just 33-32, 5.5 games out of both the NL East lead and a wild-card spot. As for fans, they'll be watching closely to see if their two biggest names can remain on the field.
The word of the day is "Natitude." The buzz around the Washington Nationals was at a fever pitch as their two phenoms -- Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg -- delivered in a big way Monday against the Marlins. Harper became the youngest player in the live-ball era to hit two home runs on Opening Day, while Strasburg gave up a leadoff single then sat down the next 19 Marlins in a row. Which young star impressed you more? Cast your votes!
No clownin' around
Bryce Harper is "on pace" for 324 home runs. He'll probably cool down considerably from that, but the 20-year-old is still primed for a big season.
The Nationals won 2-0 on Opening Day, with Bryce Harper providing the offense and Stephen Strasburg handling most of the pitching.
The Nationals said they would shut down right-hander Stephen Strasburg for the season once he reached about 160 innings. They made good on their word Saturday, ending Strasburg's season a day after he allowed five runs in a three-inning start against the Marlins. Washington maintained all along they would protect their 24-year-old in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, even as the first-place Nats closed in on the playoffs. But manager Davey Johnson said the mental side of the impending shutdown was affecting Strasburg the most. Did the Nationals make the right decision?
On Friday, "First Take" debated Stephen Strasburg's likely limit of 160 innings pitched this season. The Nationals may shut Strasburg down due to his youth and injury history. Stephen A. Smith thinks athletes these days are way too coddled, but Skip Bayless thinks it's a prudent move, given Strasburg's profile and importance to the team. What's your take?