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Dusty Baker prepared for Game 5 by packing for Chicago

Dusty Baker prepared for Game 5 by packing for Chicago

WASHINGTON — Thursday was just like any other game day for Dusty Baker. The Nationals manager woke up, said his prayers and drank some coffee. 

He did one other thing. “Then packed for Chicago,” he volunteered. 

If the Nationals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the Division Series, they go on to Wrigley Field for Saturday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. 

As a manager, Baker has lost eight consecutive games with the opportunity to clinch a playoff round, most in baseball history. 

The streak dates back to the Game 6 of the 2002 World Series when Baker’s San Francisco Giants led the Anaheim Angels by three games to two. 

The Giants had a 5-0 lead in the seventh, and lost 6-5. They lost the seventh game, too. 

That was Baker’s first — and last World Series. 

After that season, Baker moved on to the Chicago Cubs and nearly had the Cubs in the World Series before the disastrous Game 6 of the NLCS when the Florida Marlins scored eight runs in the eighth inning, and then won Game 7. 

Jump ahead nine years to 2012 when Baker was managing the Cincinnati Reds when they took a 2-0 lead over the Giants in the Division Series, then lost three straight. 

In 2013, the Reds lost the wild-card game to Pittsburgh, and on Tuesday, with a chance to win the series at Dodger Stadium, lost 6-5.

“The guys are excited. I haven't really talked to them about it too much, but the shadows are a big deal. It's a big deal on both sides,” Baker said. 

This is the first night game in the series, and Baker is happy about it. 

“I mean, we're glad to have a night game. I don't think anybody's overjoyed to have to have a night game starting at 8, but that's TV; it kind of runs the world. You've got another hour of nervous energy to deal with,” Baker said. “But you know, the guys are poised and ready.”

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Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

HOUSTON -- Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer, Howie Kendrick had a two-run triple and the Washington Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time, 4-3 Tuesday night in a matchup of division leaders.

Washington's winning streak over the Astros dates to 2012. The Nationals have won 13 of 14 against Houston since 2011.

Kendrick's triple tied it in the third before the Astros went back on top with an RBI single by Josh Reddick in the bottom half. Anthony Rendon doubled with two outs in the fourth before the homer by Wieters, which landed just to the right of straightaway center field, gave the NL East leaders a 4-3 lead.

Tanner Roark (10-8) allowed six hits and two earned runs in 5 2-3 innings and Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Charlie Morton (10-6) gave up four runs in six innings for the AL West-leading Astros.

The Astros threatened in the eighth against Brandon Kintzler when Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles and the Nationals intentionally walked Carlos Beltran with one out to load the bases. But Max Stassi grounded into a double play to leave Houston trailing.

George Springer led off the Houston first with a single, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Reddick.

Beltran doubled off the wall in left-center field in the second and scored on a single by Derek Fisher.

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Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

When Max Scherzer was a teenager, he didn't know that one day he'd actually become a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had no guarantee he'd make it to the majors, much less play in five consecutive MLB All-Star games. 

All he knew was that he had the option to go pro as a kid or go to college, and back then, the Nationals' ace needed a contingency plan in case baseball didn't work out. Fortunately for Scherzer, it did, but he doesn't regret going to college at the University of Missouri, telling Santana Moss on CSN's "Route 89" going to school was a no-brainer.

"It was actually a really easy decision," Scherzer told Moss. "When you get drafted out of high school, you're going to be going into the minor leagues, and that can take three to five or six years — multiple years — in the minor leagues, and you're forfeiting your right to further your education."

Scherzer was drafted in the 43rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play for Mizzou for three years, which turned out to be a great decision. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted him in 2006 in the first round as the 11th overall pick. 

"A lot of times when you sign out of high school, you don't make it to the major leagues," Scherzer continued. "So I realize that your education — that's your safety net.

"You need to further your education in college, and if you do get drafted out of college, you're in a much better position to try to chase your dreams because if it doesn't work out, you still have one year left of school and that's much easier to obtain rather than try to go through four years when you're not coming out of high school."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound