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Nationals arrive in St. Louis for NLDS

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Nationals arrive in St. Louis for NLDS

ST. LOUIS -- Hello from Busch Stadium, which has something of a familiar feel right now. Weren't we just here? As a matter of fact, yes. The Nationals played here last weekend. The stakes this time are just a bit higher, though, and for proof of that all you need to do is look at the MLB Postseason logos being painted along the first and third base lines as we speak.

The NLDS gets underway tomorrow afternoon, with Gio Gonzalez facing Adam Wainwright. Today, we've got workouts by both the Nationals and Cardinals, press conferences with both managers and starting pitchers and open clubhouses for interviews.

Because they had no way of knowing who they'd be playing in this first round of the postseason, the Nationals waited until today to fly into St. Louis. They took off from Dulles International Airport at noon EDT and landed at Lambert-St. Louis about two hours later.

And they'll appear here at Busch Stadium around 4 p.m. EDT, with their on-field workout scheduled for 5 p.m. after the Cardinals wrap up their session.

We'll have to see what news emerges over the course of the afternoon, but here are a few items to watch for...

-- The revelation of the Nationals' 25-man roster for this series. They aren't actually required to finalize it until tomorrow morning, but Davey Johnson might just go ahead and announce it today. As speculated yesterday, the biggest question likely involves who gets the last spot in the bullpen (with Christian Garcia the odds-on favorite over John Lannan or Zach Duke) and who gets the last spot on the bench (with Tyler Moore a likelier choice than Mark DeRosa or Eury Perez).

-- The revelation of the order of the Nationals' rotation for this series. Because they're facing the right-handed-heavy Cardinals and not the left-handed-heavy Braves, forget about any move to get Lannan in the mix. Gonzalez will start Game 1 tomorrow, with Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2 on Monday. Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler will start Games 3 and 4; it's just a question of in what order. My hunch: Jackson gets Game 3, with Detwiler in Game 4.

-- What, if anything, does Stephen Strasburg have to say? He's not going to be on the active roster, but he did make the trip and will be in the dugout throughout the postseason. While those of us who are around the Nationals on a daily basis have long since moved on from the shutdown story, I can assure you the national media has not. They will absolutely be looking for Strasburg in the clubhouse today, and they're going to want to interview him. How will the right-hander deal with all the attention?

So, be sure to check back for all that and more...

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VIDEO: Max Scherzer makes ridiculous between-the-legs snag vs. Orioles

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VIDEO: Max Scherzer makes ridiculous between-the-legs snag vs. Orioles

Sometimes it's all about taking a stab at it. 

Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, on a comebacker off the bat of Baltimore's Jonathan Schoop on Thursday night in D.C., simply stuck his glove between his legs and hoped for the best. It worked out. 

He made the ridiculous snag below and threw the ball to first for an out. Watch.

MORE NATIONALS: LATEST UPDATE ON STEPHEN STRASBURG

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Strasburg plays catch, Nats say injury not in area of Tommy John surgery

Strasburg plays catch, Nats say injury not in area of Tommy John surgery

Just three days after Stephen Strasburg was placed on the disabled list with a sore right elbow, the Nats pitcher walked out to the right field at Nationals Park and played catch with a team trainer. He started close, then backed up to play long-toss.

That was a big step for Strasburg, who is on the DL for the second time this season. And, as it turns out, it was the second time already that he's played catch since the injury.

"It's coming out pretty easy. I asked him how he felt afterwards and he said he felt good, the ball was coming out pretty good," manager Dusty Baker said.

The Nationals remain confident that Strasburg's elbow is structurally sound. They now say his soreness isn't even in the same spot where his Tommy John surgery was performed in 2010.

“He knows how he feels. Doctors have poked and prodded and given them every test almost that there is. It’s not in the same area," Baker said.

Strasburg is making progress, but the Nationals still don't know when he will take the next step in his rehab, presumably when he will get on a mound to throw a bullpen session. It's encouraging that he's been throwing, but his timeline to return is still very much in limbo.

“How much time do you give him? You give him enough time for him to feel right. If he’s not right then we got to go with another option," Baker said.

[RELATED: Olympian Katie Ledecky visits Nats Park, players enthralled with medals]

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Nats' Joe Ross making quick progress, may start rehab assignment soon

Nats' Joe Ross making quick progress, may start rehab assignment soon

On Monday in Baltimore, the Nationals had what seemed at the time like bleak news to share about Joe Ross, that time was running out for him to do a minor league rehab assignment, that he may have to instead return out of their bullpen to build his innings up. He hadn't thrown a bullpen session yet and the minor league regular season schedule was running out.

Then, on Tuesday, he threw a bullpen session, finally for the first time since he was pulled from his original minor league rehab stint on Aug. 5. Then, on Thursday he threw another, this time under the watchful eye of manager Dusty Baker, who now believes Ross may, in fact, be ready to go join one of their affiliates very soon.

How about that for a turn of events? Ross and the Nats have done nearly a complete 180, but it has him now heading in the right direction and the team will certainly take it.

"He threw quite a while. I could just tell by the expression on his face that he was feeling pretty good," Baker said. "He's been working tirelessly. Boy, we've missed him when he's been out."

When and where Ross pitches next will be determined by how he feels on Friday, how his right shoulder responds to the second bullpen session. He has been out since July 3 with shoulder inflammation.

He pitched twice in the minors - once for Hagerstown and once for Syracuse - but couldn't shake the discomfort in his shoulder. His velocity remained lower than it should be and Ross could tell something was wrong.

Ross said he felt great after Tuesday's bullpen and feels that this time is different. Baker himself is encouraged by the young right-hander's progress.

"It's coming out pretty easy. I asked him how he felt afterwards and he said he felt good, the ball was coming out pretty good," he said.

Baker is ready to get Ross back as soon as possible, knowing how much his rotation has been hurt by his absence.

"When he was in, we had one of the best rotations in baseball one through five. Then, in Joe's absence, we've tried a number of guys there with some success and some not so successful. It's put some pressure on the bullpen and it'd be nice to get Joe back," he said.

[RELATED: Olympian Katie Ledecky visits Nats Park, players enthralled with medals]

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