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SI celebrates region on cover

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SI celebrates region on cover

There is no question that sports in D.C. are looking up. After a decade as rough as any sports city has endured, the fortune of all Washington teams has seemingly turned in the last few years. Each team has been graced with a potential superstar, or several, and each team looks to be on the rise.

Hey, even the Wizards with John Wall and Bradley Beal.

While none of the D.C. teams have won anything as concrete as a championship yet, the time we are in does deserve some recognition. And Sports Illustrated has decided to dedicate their newest issue to the cause. They call it "Washington and Baltimore: The Unlikely Sports Capital."

On the next issue of SI shipped out to regional customers, the cover will look like this:

It is a pretty nice moment for fans in the region and the fact that Baltimore and D.C. are doing well justifies their claim. But in reality, Washington teams have been here before.

In 2008 the Redskins, Wizards, and Capitals were in the playoffs and look what has happened since (see Zorn, Jim; Arenas, Gilbert; Halak, Jaroslav). It is a cool gesture by Sports Illustrated, but it only means something if the trend continues.

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Bryce Harper explains 10th inning ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike'

Bryce Harper explains 10th inning ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike'

Bryce Harper is not one to back down when it comes to arguments with umpires, even after he's been ejected from a game and has time to cool down and collect his thoughts.

So, it should probably come as no surprise that on Saturday after he was tossed in the 10th inning of the Nats' loss to the Colorado Rockies, Harper referred to home plate umpire Mark Winters' called strike three as a "mistake." 

Here is Harper, in detail, on the call that led to him throwing his helmet to the ground and confronting Winters, who immediately sent him to the showers:

"You're in a game like that, 4-4 in the 10th, you get to a 2-2 count. He throws a pitch off the plate which they said was a strike, which was a ball. I was reading it all the way in. If you look at the tape, I was looking down at the ball the whole way into the glove and it was just, you know, it was off the plate. I could possibly see one more pitch and maybe hit a homer or a double or walk. I could even strike out. But I just wanted to see that last pitch and I never got there. It just shouldn't happen. Just bad [call] there. It's not a strike," he said.

"You don't want an umpire to make a mistake in that big of a situation. That's just not good. I wanted to see that last pitch. We could have possibly not played the 11th or the 12th or whatever. I mean, getting on base with [Anthony] Rendon behind me would have been huge as well, possibly could have stolen second, a ball hit to the ride side and you never know."

On if Harper regretted his actions, he did concede it was not a good time to be tossed, given the game was tied and the Nats had a chance to beat the Rockies.

"I know we had a short bench. I think going into it you don't ever want to get ejected," he said.

Manager Dusty Baker didn't offer a harsh assessment to Harper's ejection. He basically described it as just part of the game.

"Everybody blows up from time to time," he said. "These things happen. Especially it happens this time of year tempers are short. It’s hot, played a lot of games, been around the same people for a long period of time. This is the time of year when tempers do flare up.”

Outfielder Jayson Werth was brief in his comments on Harper. But did note how this isn't the first time for the reigning MVP. Harper has now been ejected from eight games in his career.

"I’ve been kicked out of one game my whole career. Bryce, on the other hand, has been kicked out of multiple," he said.

[RELATED: Harper ejected after arguing balls and strikes]

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Nationals tap Lucas Giolito to start Sunday against Colorado Rockies

Nationals tap Lucas Giolito to start Sunday against Colorado Rockies

The Nationals have chosen right-hander Lucas Giolito to start on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies, as their revolving door of rookies making spot starts continues.

Giolito, 22, last pitched for the Nationals on July 24 against the San Diego Padres. He has made three big league starts this season with six earned runs allowed on 12 hits and nine walks in 11 total innings. 

Giolito has faced the Padres once and the Mets twice. On Sunday, he will see a lineup that is much more formidable in the Rockies.

"I’m hoping he throws up a gem against a very tough lineup," manager Dusty Baker said.

Since his last MLB start, Giolito has pitched five times for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He gave up nine earned runs in 22 2/3 innings during that stretch.

A former 16th overall pick, Giolito is ranked by many outlets as the top pitching prospect in baseball. He is the top prospect overall in the Nationals minor league system.

Giolito made his MLB debut against the New York Mets on June 28.

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Yusmeiro Petit allows 5 runs in 11th, as Nats fall to Rockies

Yusmeiro Petit allows 5 runs in 11th, as Nats fall to Rockies

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 9-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in extra innings on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park.

How it happened: The Colorado Rockies' lineup is relentless and powerful, and they have a unique ability to pressure opposing teams into making uncharacteristic mistakes. The Nationals fell 9-4 in 11 innings to Colorado on Saturday and made numerous unforced errors along the way.

One Rockies run came in on a wild pitch during an intentional walk thrown by starter A.J. Cole. Newly-acquired lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski made a throwing error in the seventh inning that helped lead to a run. And reliever Yusmeiro Petit allowed a pair of two-run homers in the 11th to seal the Nationals' fate.

It was another poor defensive performance for the Nats in a long string of them. They committed two errors and that count didn't include another mistake by Rzepczynski, who dropped a ball in the ninth when fielding a bunt. The error he was charged with was on a groundball by D.J. LeMahieu in the seventh. Rzepczynski made an underhand throw to first base that sailed over Ryan Zimmerman's head. That allowed Charlie Blackmon to reach third and eventually score.

It was Blackmon who hit the first homer off Petit in the 11th. The next was by Carlos Gonzalez, his 200th career bomb. Petit also gave up another run on a single by Nick Hundley in an overall disaster of an outing.

The Nats scored their first three runs in the fourth inning. Bryce Harper landed an RBI double to left field. Wilson Ramos smacked an RBI single and Danny Espinosa brought in another run on a groundout to second base. 

They pushed the game to extra innings on a Jayson Werth RBI single with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. He singled to left field to score Ben Revere, who walked and stole second base to set it all up. Werth's RBI was off Adam Ottavino, who saw his 37-game scoreless streak snapped. This came just one series after the Nats broke Orioles closer Zach Britton's then MLB-best 43 consecutive scoreless appearance streak.

Harper was later ejected for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Mark Winters in the bottom of the 10th. He went off over a called strike three and threw his helmet at the ground. Winters immediately tossed him. It was Harper's eighth career ejection and his second of this season.

Rookie A.J. Cole took a no-decision in his first home start as a National. He went 5 2/3 innings with three runs allowed on four hits and three walks. He served up a homer to Blackmon - the first of two for the Rockies All-Star - allowed an RBI single to pitcher Jorge De La Rosa and brought another run home on the wild pitch.

The Nats have lost five of their last seven games.

What it means: The Nationals dropped to 75-54 overall on the season. They are 2-3 against the Rockies in 2016.

Harper keeps rolling: Harper's double was his fourth extra-base hit in his last four games and his third to opposite field. That is a very good sign for the reigning MVP, who when at his best can spread hits around the field as good as anyone in baseball. With that double, Harper has reached base in all 14 games since he returned from his neck injury. He also walked and has reached base twice in five straight games and in seven of his last eight outings. Harper is now batting 21-for-54 (.389) with six doubles, 16 RBI and 11 runs since coming back.

Harper has shown promise for brief stretches since April, but he hasn't produced this consistently in months. Now he's hitting doubles and triples to left field. It appears he may be finally rounding into form, just in time for the home stretch of the regular season. He just needs to do better at keep his cool with the umpires.

No slowing Turner: Trea Turner had another strong game with two hits and a steal. It was his 19th multi-hit game of the year in his 40th total outing and his batting average now sits at .341. Turner's steal was his 17th of the season, which puts him in second on the Nats, only behind Harper who has 18. 

Ramos ties a career-best: Ramos single gave him 68 RBI on the year, which ties the career-high he set last season. It was Ramos' first game back after sitting out two with Jose Lobaton behind the dish in his place. Ramos' RBI was his first in a span of eight games and an encouraging sign for The Buffalo, who has struggled of late. Before the single, he was 0-for his last 13 going back to Aug. 20, with just one walk during that span. Since Aug. 9, Ramos' batting average has dropped double digits from .337 all the way to .312. Perhaps the two days off and Saturday's RBI can help get him going.

Up next: The Nats and Rockies play the finale of this series and their head-to-head matchups this season. First pitch is at 1:35 p.m. with right-hander Chad Bettis (10-7, 5.29) going for Colorado. The Nationals have yet to name their starter.

[RELATED: Dusty talks about slapping Turner's butt, things get weird]

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