The matchup: Back home after opening the second half of the season with three out of four road games, the Mystics host Atlanta on Friday (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Washington (5-17) dropped all three of those away contests, but in between downed Chicago in overtime at the Verizon Center. The Mystics remain last in the Eastern Conference, 3.5 games behind Chicago and New York for the final playoff spot. The Dream (11-11), third in the East, are led by gold medalist Angel McCoughtry and ex-Mystic Lindsey Harding. Playing head-to-head for the first time this season, Washington and Atlanta will meet four times over the final month of the regular season. Last season the Dream took three of five games in the series.Last time out: The Mystics became the latest victim of the sizzling San Antonio Silver Stars, falling 75-72 on Wednesday. Playing their fourth game in six days, the Mystics shot 3 of 13 in the first quarter and were outscored 26-12 in the third. Trailing by 15 points entering the final 10 minutes, Crystal Langhorne and Monique Currie sparked a rally as Washington pulled within six midway through the fourth quarter. Jasmine Thomass 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds cut the lead to three, but San Antonio dribbled out the clock for its 12th straight win."(We) came out in the first five minutes of the second half and just lost our composure and our focus, Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey said. They scored 26 points in that quarter. We fought our way back, missed some shots down the stretch, and didnt close out the game.Langhorne and Thomas paced the Mystics with 17 points while Currie added. The trio combined made 17 of 31 field goal attempts (54.8 percent) from the field while their teammates finished 10 of 31 (32.2 percent).Jumping for Jasmine: Beyond any thoughts of a playoff push, the Mystics second half of the season goal centers on generating consistent and improved production out of their younger players. Thomas, a first-round pick last season, struggled early in the season with her offense and running the Mystics attack. If the last two games are any indication, the Northern Virginia native might be turning the corner.In the win over Chicago, Thomas doled out a career-high eight assists and sank the go-ahead 3-pointer with 16 remaining in overtime. Her 17 points and three 3-pointers against San Antonio matched her season-high.The Dream: McCoughtry, the WNBAs leading scorer at 22.7 points per game, didn't play in Wednesdays 82-71 won over Chicago for personal reasons, the Associated Press reported. The offensively gifted forwards status for Fridays game is uncertain, Dream coach and general manager Marynell Meadors said. Harding, who directed the Mystics attack during the 2009 and 2010 playoff campaigns, is averaging 11.5 points and 3.8 assists.
The Nationals have plenty of questions facing their starting rotation as they enter the 2016 postseason, but they now know exactly what the Dodgers will be rolling out for their NL Division Series.
Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts announced the Dodgers' rotation on Tuesday with Clayton Kershaw set for Game 1, Rich Hill for Game 2, Kenta Maeda for Game 3 and Julio Urias for Game 4. That's three lefties, with Maeda the only exception. And that's two rookies in Maeda and Urias.
Kershaw getting Game 1 is no surprise, of course. The three-time Cy Young winner and former MVP is the best pitcher in baseball. He's 12-3 with a 1.65 ERA in 20 starts this season and has 168 strikeouts to just 10 walks.
Hill has also been very good with a 2.05 ERA in 19 starts this season. The Dodgers acquired him in a trade with the Athletics on Aug. 1. Hill actually spent part of the 2015 season as part of the Nationals' minor league system.
Maeda has been one of the best rookies this season with a 16-9 record and 3.20 ERA. Urias is not far behind him with a 3.53 ERA through 17 appearances.
The Nationals are likely to pitch Max Scherzer in Game 1 and Tanner Roark in Game 2. Who pitches Game 3 is less clear, though it will be a choice between Joe Ross and Gio Gonzalez. The other could pitch Game 4, unless the Nats decide to start Scherzer again on short rest.
Stephen Strasburg is unlikely to pitch in the series at all, the Nationals revealed on Tuesday. He remains out with a right flexor mass strain.
Nationals starter A.J. Cole has been suspended five games and issued an undisclosed fine by Major League Baseball for his role in the benches-clearing altercation between the Nats and Pirates on Sunday in Pittsburgh. The rookie has already decided to appeal the ban.
Cole is in line to pitch for the Nationals on Friday against the Marlins. That start is in jeopardy if the suspension is upheld, or he decides to drop it.
Cole, 24, threw behind Pirates first baseman Jung Ho Kang in the third inning of the Nationals' win over the Pirates. It was after Kang faked a tag at third base on a triple by Bryce Harper, a move that led to Harper jamming his left thumb on the play.
Harper has since missed two games with the injury, but X-rays showed no broken bones. He is expected to return to the Nats soon, possibly on Wednesday.
Cole is 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA this season. He has allowed 12 earned runs in his last 16 2/3 innings pitched. Friday would be his final chance to prove himself before the Nats decide their playoff roster, but he may not get it.
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