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Instant analysis: Marlins 2, Nats 1

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Instant analysis: Marlins 2, Nats 1

Game in a nutshell: This figured to be tightly contested pitchers' duel, with lefties Gio Gonzalez and Mark Buehrle each known for working fast and throwing strikes. Each starter lived up to the billing, but Buehrle was just a little bit better than his counterpart. The veteran southpaw allowed one run over seven innings, throwing a scant 86 pitches in the process. Gonzalez certainly pitched well enough to win -- two runs over six innings -- but he was done in by some effective small ball by the Marlins in the bottom of the fifth, producing the winning run.

The Nats couldn't get a rally going against Miami's suspect bullpen and thus suffered a frustrating loss. Combined with the Braves' win over the Mets, their lead in the NL East is now down to 3 games.

Hitting lowlight: Just when you thought Michael Morse had rediscovered his peak form from last year, he stumbles out of the gates to open the second half. For the second straight night, the cleanup hitter went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, two of them called. Morse is at his best when he's able to drive outside pitches to right field. In these last two games, he hasn't been able to pull the trigger on those offerings, and he's paid the price for it.

Pitching highlight: It didn't take long to realize Gonzalez was going to be in top form for this game. His command was pinpoint (he didn't walk a batter) and his curveball had ridiculous break. It helped that umpire Eric Cooper consistently gave him the outside corner of the strike zone, but kuods to Gonzalez for taking advantage of it. He wound up striking out nine and at 93 pitches probably could have returned for the seventh inning. Manager Davey Johnson, though, said he wanted to take things easy on the lefty after he pitched an inning in the All-Star Game four days ago.

Key stat: Buehrle needed only 26 total pitches to face 11 Nationals batters through the first three innings.

Up next: Fresh off his All-Star debut, Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound for his first start of the second half. He'll face Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco at 1:10 p.m.

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Nationals Playoff Schedule 2016: MLB Postseason Dates and TV channel

Nationals Playoff Schedule 2016: MLB Postseason Dates and TV channel

The 2016 MLB Postseason begins the first week in October.

The N.L. East Division champion Washington Nationals face the N.L. West Division champion Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. Divisional Series. While the specific times and game locations have yet to be decided, here is what we know thus far.

2016 MLB N.L. postseason schedule:

When is the American League Wild Card Game?

Tuesday, Oct. 4.: Time TBD. TV Channel: TBS

When is the National League Wild Card Game?

Wednesday, Oct. 5: Time: TBD. TV Channel: TBS

 

When is the American League and National Lague Divisional Series? (Best of five series)

*  If necessary

Thursday, Oct. 6:

- ALDS A, Game 1. TV Channel: TBS
- ALDS B, Game 2. TV Channel: TBS

Friday, Oct. 7

- ALDS A, Game 2. TV Channel: TBS
- ALDS B, Game 2. TV Channel: TBS

- NLDS A, Game 1. TV Channel: Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network
- NLDS B, Game 1. TV Channel: Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network

Saturday, Oct. 8

- NLDS A, Game 2. TV Channel: Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network
- NLDS B, Game 2. TV Channel: Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network

Sunday, Oct. 9

- ALDS A, Game 3. TV Channel: TBS
- ALDS B, Game 3. TV Channel: TBS

Monday, Oct. 10

- ALDS A, Game 4*. TV Channel: TBS
- ALDS B, Game 4*. TV Channel: TBS

- NLDS A, Game 3. TV Channel: Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network
- NLDS B, Game 3. TV Channel: Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network

Tuesday, Oct. 11

- NLDS A, Game 4*. TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
- NLDS B, Game 4*. TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

Wednesday, Oct. 12

- ALDS A, Game 5*. TV Channel: TBS
- ALDS B, Game 5*. TV Channel: TBS

Thursday, Oct. 13

- NLDS A, Game 5*. TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
- NLDS B, Game 5*. TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

 

When is the ALCS? When is the NLCS? (Best of 7. Times TBD)

Friday, Oct. 14

- ALCS Game 1. TV Channel: TBS

Saturday, Oct. 15

- ALCS Game 2. TV Channel: TBS

- NLCS Game 1. TV Channel: Fox or Fox Sports 1

Sunday, Oct. 16

- NLCS Game 2. TV Channel: Fox or Fox Sports 1

Monday, Oct. 17

- ALCS Game 3. TV Channel: TBS

Tuesday, Oct. 18

- NLCS Game 3. TV Channel: Fox or Fox Sports 1

- ALCS Game 4. TV Channel: TBS

Wednesday, Oct. 19

- NLCS Game 4. TV Channel: Fox or Fox Sports 1

- ALCS Game 5*. TV Channel: TBS

Thursday, Oct. 20

NLCS Game 5*. TV Channel: Fox or Fox Sports 1

Friday, Oct. 21

- ALCS Game 6*. TV Channel: TBS

Saturday, Oct. 22

- NLCS Game 6*. TV Channel: Fox or Fox Sports 1

- ALCS Game 7*. TV Channel: TBS

Sunday, Oct. 23

- NLCS Game 7*. TV Channel: Fox or Fox Sports 1

 

When is the 2016 World Series? (Best of 7. Times TBD)

Tuesday, Oct. 25

- Game 1: NL at AL. TV Channel: Fox

Wednesday, Oct. 26

- Game 2: NL at AL. TV Channel: Fox

Friday, Oct. 28

- Game 3: AL at NL. TV Channel: Fox

Saturday, Oct. 29

- Game 4: AL at NL. TV Channel: Fox

Sunday, Oct. 30

- Game 5*: AL at NL. TV Channel: Fox

Tuesday, Nov. 1

- Game 6*: NL at AL. TV Channel: Fox

Wednesday, Nov. 2

- Game 7*: NL at AL. TV Channel: Fox

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Bryce Harper returns to lineup as the Nationals host the Marlins

Bryce Harper returns to lineup as the Nationals host the Marlins

Nats (93-66) vs. Miami Marlins (78-80) at Nationals Park

At long last, we've reached the final series of the regular season. The Nationals will host the Miami Marlins in a weekend set that will likely determine playoff seeding. Washington's magic number to clinch home-field advantage over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division series is two, so a win and a Los Angeles loss could sew it up on Friday night.

Seeding aside, the biggest development heading into this game is the return of Bryce Harper, who's back in the lineup after missing four games with a thumb injury. Prior to the injury, Harper had hits in five out of his previous seven games. The Nats have to hope he can pick up where he left off.   

Right hander A.J. Cole, who is currently appealing his five-game suspension as a result of Sunday’s brouhaha with the Pittsburgh Pirates, will get the start tonight. The 24-year-old is 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA. He’ll be opposed by the Marlins Andrew Cashner (5-11, 5.13 ERA).

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - A.J. Cole vs. Miami Marlins - Andrew Cashner

NATS 

CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
2B Stephen Drew
1B Clint Robinson
SS Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
RHP A.J. Cole

MARLINS

TBA