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Baker explains reasoning for his Nats NLDS roster construction

Baker explains reasoning for his Nats NLDS roster construction

With the Nationals NL Division Series roster revealed Friday morning, manager Dusty Baker explained some of his more surprising choices.

Perhaps the biggest eyebrow-raising move was the decision to tap outfielder Michael Taylor over veteran Ben Revere, who struggled this season but has playoff experience.

“We needed some balance,” Baker said before Friday’s NLDS opener. “We had a predominantly left-handed hitting bench and we just that for this series, that the things that Michael can do and bring to the table was better for this roster.”

Taylor has had a bit of an odyssey in 2016. Unexpectedly playing everyday following Revere’s opening day oblique injury, the 25-year-old struggled to convince the Nats that he should be a permanent part of the lineup. He was eventually sent down to Triple-A Syracuse and returned to the majors in late August. He only had 28 at-bats after the All-Star break.

Add in an apparent thumb injury he suffered earlier in the week, and Taylor didn’t look like someone who would be playing in October. 

“We’re confident,” Baker said. “We wouldn’t have put him on there if we thought he couldn’t perform. So we watched him the last couple days, a trainer has been working with him big time. So, yeah, we’re confident.”

The other area where the Nats with with youth over experience was in the bullpen. Rookie Reynaldo Lopez, who impressed Baker as a long reliever in September, was put on the roster over Yusmeiro Petit. Right-handed reliever Matt Belisle was also left off the team in favor of an extra southpaw to combat the Dodgers’ bevy of left-handed bats in their lineup.

“That was tough,” Baker said. “It’s tough, even though they will be traveling with the team, and they will be helping some of the younger guys. Petit had not pitched well as of late, and Belisle had not had much activities of late.”

In all, the Nats will carry 14 position players and 11 pitchers on their 25-man playoff roster. Baker said that he wanted to have more position players available because of the injuries to some of his key regulars. 

"We needed the extra bodies instead of going with eight guys in the bullpen," he said. "We have some guys banged up, some guys that we may have to hit for or run for."

Of those on the roster, five of them are rookies: Relievers Sammy Solis and Reynaldo Lopez, center fielder Trea Turner, infielder Wilmer Difo and catcher Pedro Severino. 

[MORE: NATIONALS ANNOUNCE PLAYOFF ROSTER FOR NLDS VS. DODGERS]

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Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wade Davis struck out batting leader Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end Washington's ninth-inning rally, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Nationals 5-4 Monday night.

In jeopardy of being shut out for the first time this season, the NL East-leading Nationals scored four times in the ninth. Their comeback began against Hector Rondon and continued when Davis entered.

MORE: CSN'S UPDATED MLB POWER RANKINGS

With Washington down 5-3, Bryce Harper's single loaded the bases with two outs. Davis threw a wild pitch that scored a run before striking out a swinging Zimmerman, who's hitting .344. The final pitch bounced, and catcher Willson Contreras zipped a low throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to close out the victory.

Contreras hit a leadoff home run in his first career game-opening at-bat and Eddie Butler (4-2) worked five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs ahead.

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2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

The Dodgers are living their best life right now. 

Cody Bellinger looks like he's just going to go and hit two home runs a game for the rest of the year, Yasiel Puig is fun again and they're fresh off a 10-game win streak. Kenley Jansen went 112 batters without issuing a walk. All of this is coming, by the way, during a year when Clayton Kershaw is more Very Good than he is Great.

It's a good time to be a fan of an incredibly young and talented team in a top-5 market with a well-regarded front office that's been written a blank check. How did everyone not named the Dodgers do this week? To the rankings! 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

30. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 24-49
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance:  Maikel Franco (.333/.419/.481 last week)

And there goes Maikel Franco, right back on the trade block. The Phillies' rebuild is starting to look a lot murkier. 

29. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2017 Record: 27-50
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Brandon Belt (.316/.409/.947 last week)

It's weird to see the Giants play THIS poorly. Johnny Cueto is arguably the best available starter on the trade market though, and that obviously bodes well for their future. 

28. CINCINNATI REDS

2017 Record: 29-38
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Joey Votto (.360/.385/.680 last week)

When you go 1-9 over the last 10 and let the Nats put an 18-spot on you, you drop a spot or two in the rankings. Them's the rules. 

27. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 31-44
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Yangervis Solarte (.364/.462/.909 last week)

In an annual July tradition, the Padres will fleece someone for one of their relievers. Brad Hand in a Dodgers uniform, anyone? 

26. DETROIT TIGERS

2017 Record: 32-42
Previous Ranking: 15
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Miguel Cabrera (.400/.444/.840 last week)

The Tigers are our biggest fallers of the week. 2-8 in their last 10, including a frustrating Perfect Game bid broken up by a bunt single. Not their best week. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE