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Gio explains emotions in Game 5

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Gio explains emotions in Game 5

In the days after the St. Louis Cardinals’ win over the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS, several members of the winning team shared their opinions of what went wrong with those that lost. One statement in particular, made by an anonymous Cardinal to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez became rattled by umpire Alfonso Marquez’ strike zone. Gonzalez was seen screaming into his glove and in the direction of home plate after leaving the mound at the end of the fifth inning.

Here are the comments as they were originally published:

“A turning point came in the top of the fifth inning. Encouraged by batting coach Mark McGwire, the Cardinals began taking pitches to make Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez sweat. Gonzalez, who seemed to be feeling the pressure, began obsessing over ball-strike calls by home plate umpire Angel Marquez.

The Cardinals could see Gonzalez weakening, and that fired them up. As one Cardinal said, ‘Gio looked like he didn't want to be out there. The guy has a 6-0 lead, then 6-1, and he's panicking out there. We smelled blood.’”

Gonzalez needed 41 pitches to get out of the fifth that night after allowing two runs, one on a walk and one on a wild pitch. Gonzalez walked a total of three batters in the inning alone and along the way let the Cardinals cut the lead to three runs. 

Gonzalez was asked about the incident on Wednesday by MLB.com and defended his reaction.

"You see that I'm a very emotional guy. If you can figure that out, you can figure me out," Gonzalez said. "If [the Cardinals] found a glitch in my system, hey, they found something. But honestly, I left the game winning and we were one out away [from advancing to the National League Championship Series against the Giants]. I don't think there was too much that they figured out. That's how I see it. You are one strike away from the next level. If they figured it out after I was done, that’s pretty impressive."

Gonzalez said something similar after the Game 5 loss, that despite his off outing he still gave the team a chance to win. And with all that had to go wrong, and did, in the Nationals’ loss, it really is hard to pin it on one player. 

Gonzalez also told MLB.com he is already training for next season down in Florida. He says that with Stephen Strasburg back with the team, he likes their chances to get right back where they were at the end of 2012. But this time he hopes their experience can help prevent the same result.

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Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

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