The Nationals look to avoid yet another first round exit

Associated Press

The Cubs won Game 1, the Nats Game 2 and the Cubs took Game 3. The Nats look to hold serve tonight, but this time their entire season is on the line. A loss would mean the fourth first round exit in the club’s four postseason appearances.

A lot will be made of that in the hours leading up to this evening’s game — I’ve already joked about it on Twitter because I can’t help myself — but it’s easy to make more of it than is really warranted. Baseball is a random game in the best of times, but almost anything can happen in three to five games.

Stuff like the Nationals offense — which was near the top of the National League — going cold as ice over a four day period. The team is hitting a collective 11-for-91 and a line of .121/.200/.231. There is no shame in this, mind you: the Cubs are hitting a collective 15-for-84 and a line of .179/.274/.298. Yesterday their hits just came at better times. Stuff. Just. Happens.

Tanner Roark will take the mound for Washington. He’s no ace, but he’s pitched much better in the second half than the first. Roark, who grew up just outside of Chicago, is 4-2 in seven career starts against the Cubs and is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA against Chicago this season. He’ll face off against Jake Arrieta, who has been given some extra rest to allow his bum hamstring to get a bit stronger. Arrieta got beat badly in his only start against the Nationals this season, giving up six runs – five earned – in four innings of work. That was in late June, of course, which might as well be a year ago. He hasn’t pitched since September 26. Roark hasn’t gone since October 1. Both should be fresh.

Really, though, this game is going to be about the hitters. Someone, eventually, is going to heat up, right? They have to eventually, no? If the Nats’ bats don’t do something they’re done. And if they do get eliminated in the first round once again, I presume many people will question Dusty Baker’s job status and talk about curses and futility and mental blocks and stuff. They shouldn’t — the Cubs are pretty good, after all, and remember, it’s baseball and anything can happen in baseball — but they will.

That’s just something that happens in baseball too.


Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.