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Instant analysis: Nats 5, Phillies 1


Instant analysis: Nats 5, Phillies 1

Game in a nutshell: Knowing they could clinch the No. 1 seed for the NL playoffs with a victory today -- regardless of the result of the Reds' game tonight in St. Louis -- the Nationals went out and took care of business. Edwin Jackson tossed 6 23 strong innings to rebound from his disastrous last start. Ryan Zimmerman, Tyler Moore and Michael Morse all blasted home runs to pace the offensive attack. Shoot, they even let Teddy win the Presidents Race for the first time, eliciting a huge roar from the announced crowd of 37,075. And by finishing off the Phillies, the Nationals finished with a 98-64 record, locking up the top seed for the postseason. Game 1 of the NLDS will be Sunday at the winner of Friday's Wild Card game between the Braves and Cardinals, with Game 2 on Monday. The series will come to Nationals Park for Games 3-5 Wednesday through Friday. The Reds and Giants will open their NLDS on Saturday in San Francisco.

Hitting highlight: Who knew all it would take to bring the Nationals' bats alive was a giant-headed Teddy winning the Presidents Race? Whether that had an actual impact or not, facts are facts: Moments after the fourth-inning race, Zimmerman crushed his 25th homer of the season, tying the game 1-1. Morse and Moore immediately followed with back-to-back doubles, giving the Nationals the lead. Two innings later, Moore belted his 10th homer of the season, providing a key insurance run. And then Morse added the final blow, a two-run shot in the eighth. Ah, the power of Teddy.

Pitching highlight: Coming off a disastrous start in St. Louis, Jackson was in serious need of a bounce-back performance. He delivered big-time. The right-hander allowed one run over 6 23 innings, walking only one batter while striking out six and keeping his pitch count at 97. And thanks to some run support, he was rewarded with his 10th win of the season, joining the other four members of the Nationals' Opening Day rotation in double digits. Would Jackson have been in danger of losing his rotation spot for the postseason based on his September struggles? Probably not. But this standout performance should ensure he starts either Game 3 or 4 of the NLDS next week.

Key stat: With an announced crowd today of 37,075, the Nationals ended the regular season with a total attendance of 2,370,794 over 79 home dates. That averages out to 30,010 per date, the franchise's highest total since the inaugural 2005 season at RFK Stadium.

Up next: The regular season is over, but now the real fun begins. The Nationals will get the next three days off, then they'll hit the road for Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Sunday, facing the winner of Friday's Wild Card game between the Braves and Cardinals.

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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.