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Nationals rookie Pedro Severino ready for first MLB postseason

Nationals rookie Pedro Severino ready for first MLB postseason

Ask Nationals rookie Pedro Severino about the biggest postseason game he's ever played in and he will turn to show-and-tell. In his locker in the Nats' clubhouse is the championship ring he won as a member of the 2014 Single-A Potomac Nationals. It's gold on the sides, jeweled on the top and heavier than it looks.

Now, just two years after he helped lead the P-Nats to the Carolina League title, the 23-year-old catcher is expected to play a significant role on the Nationals in the 2016 MLB postseason. With Wilson Ramos out due to a torn ACL, Severino is the next man up. 

"I feel good. I'm ready to play. I'm ready for Friday," he said. "I have my first postseason game on Friday. I don't think there is any pressure. It's still baseball. There are more people. That's it."

Severino could, in fact, start in Game 1 on Friday. Manager Dusty Baker has already hinted at that possibility with lefty Clayton Kershaw set to pitch for the Dodgers. A right-handed batter, Severino hit .309 against lefties in the minors this season compared to .261 against righties.

Kershaw will offer a much tougher challenge than anyone Severino saw in the minors, of course.

"He's one of the best pitchers. Like my friend said a long time ago, if he controls the ball over the plate, I can do my best. The only thing is don't try to do too much with that guy. Just try to put the ball into play. That's important for me. I know he's the best pitcher, but I can't do anything about that," Severino said.

Severino only has five at-bats against left-handers in the majors this season, but his overall numbers are solid, albeit in a small sample size. Through 16 big league games he's 9-for-28 (.321) with two homers, four RBI, six runs, two doubles and five walks. 

Severino, though, will be leaned on more so for his defense, the biggest reason why he is in this position as Ramos' replacement.

"He's pretty danged good back there framing the ball and throwing the ball. I think he'll be just fine," outfielder Bryce Harper said.

Severino has already stood out defensively, but has plenty to learn about the Nationals' pitching staff. He has nowhere near the experience that Ramos and Jose Lobaton have in dealing with Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark and others.

Severino tries to learn as much as he can from Ramos and Lobaton whenever he's around them.

"I'm so proud because I can play on this team. Everyone here is like a family. We help each other," Severino said. "The first time when I got called up in September, Ramos got the lineup and taught me everybody. What pitch they have to throw, what pitch for every count. Loby has done it a couple times. I feel so proud because they play the same position that I play and they don't feel like there is something wrong if I play good or if I play bad. They try to help me. That's important."

Severino talks to the Nats' veteran catchers, but also picks up a lot simply by watching the veterans go to work.

"He's always paying attention. I don't ever have to tell him in the dugout to quit fooling around, to watch and see how they're pitching this guy," Baker said. "What's impressed me probably the most is his ability to recall what the gameplan is and how to make adjustments."

Ramos is out for these playoffs and likely most of next season, and is also an impending free agent, which means Severino has an opportunity this October to earn a larger role next year. The Nats have a lot of uncertainty at the catcher position and he could factor into the equation this winter.

"I've been impressed with what he's been doing," first baseman Clint Robinson said. "He's a young guy with something to prove. With the catching spot possibly up for grabs next year, he wants to prove that he's going to be that guy next year."

There are, of course, some pretty important things to take care of first.

[RELATED: Nats not overly concerned injuries will affect defense]

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

NEW YORK -- Travis d'Arnaud hit two home runs and the New York Mets ended a three-game skid, rallying past a watered-down lineup of Washington Nationals 7-6 on Friday night.

Washington manager Dusty Baker said he needed to "give my big boys much needed rest" with the playoffs nearing, and not a single regular started for the NL East champions. Star Daniel Murphy pinch hit in the eighth and flied out.

MORE NATS: RATHER HAVE THE CUBS, BREWERS, OR CARDINALS IN NLDS?

The Nationals begin the Division Series in exactly two weeks. If the current standings hold, they would host the World Series champion Chicago Cubs to open the best-of-five matchup.

Adam Lind hit a three-run homer for Washington. It was the Nationals' 203rd home run this season, matching the franchise record dating to 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos.

Howie Kendrick had an RBI double and prized prospect Victor Robles lined a two-run triple in the fifth that put Washington ahead 6-1.

Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley exited in the eighth inning because of an apparent injury. He' has struggled this season and missed more than two months because of back problems.

Nori Aoki had three hits for the Mets, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning off Joe Blanton (2-4).

Chasen Bradford (2-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Jeurys Familia, the Mets' third pitcher in the ninth inning, came on to strike out Robles with runners on first and third for his fourth save -- his first since May 5. Familia, who missed three months after surgery to repair a blood clot, entered as part of a double switch, with Kevin Plawecki taking over at catcher for d'Arnaud.

D'Arnaud hit a solo homer in the second and connected for a tying, three-run drive in the fifth that finished starter Edwin Jackson. That gave d'Arnaud a career-best 15 homers and marked his second multihomer game, the other coming in April against Washington.

MORE MLB: POSTSEASON BRACKET PROJECTION (THURSDAY)

Mets starter Robert Gsellman allowed six runs in five innings. He moved up a day to pitch in place of ace Jacob deGrom, who was moved back in the rotation until Sunday because of a stomach illness this week.

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Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

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Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

The regular season is winding down and there is no drama in the nation’s capital.

With a stranglehold on the National League East for the entire season, the Washington Nationals were the first team in baseball to earn a playoff spot and their division. Since June, the Nationals’ lead has been hovering around 20 games. Their record against the division is 44-26 with three NL East series forthcoming.

Beyond that, positioning has not been a factor in the National League either. It was a near forgone conclusion that the Nationals were going to earn the No. 2 seed in the NL side of the postseason. There was a slight chance last week that Washington could pass the Los Angeles Dodgers with them losing 16 of 17 games. Alas, the Dodgers took two out of three in their series, solidifying their No. 1 seed hopes.

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Dusty Baker then basically threw in the towel for that race. He spread out his rotation to six pitchers and gave his players consistent rest. Focusing on the postseason more than the playoff race, he does not appear to care about their positioning.

With that, the Nationals are all but guaranteed to finish second behind the Dodgers. Floating between four and six games back, there is no sense of urgency.

There is no worry about the team in third either. The Chicago Cubs, as of September 22, sit seven games behind the Nationals and are in the thick of a Divisional race.

Either way, even if the Nationals were to collapse and the winner of the National League Central was to rocket up to second, the Nationals will play against whoever wins the division in the No. 2 vs. No. 3 match-up.

The Central has actually been the Nationals Achilles heel this year. They finished with a 17-13 record vs. NL Central teams. It is not the whole division the Nationals have to worry about though, just the one that comes out.

Entering Friday’s action the Cubs are well on their way to winning the division, according to fangraphs.com. Below are the current odds to win the division:

Chicago Cubs                     97.8%
Milwaukee Brewers          0.9%
St. Louis Cardinals            1.3%

This is slightly misleading though, because the Central could completely flip before the postseason. The lead is 4.5 over the Milwaukee Brewers and 5.0 over the St. Louis Cardinals. However of their final 10 games, three are against the Brewers, four against the Cardinals, all seven on the road.

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In the five-game NLDS the Nationals will face one of these teams. Even if it is the defending World Series Champions, you have to like the Nationals’ odds.

CHICAGO CUBS PREVIEW

Current record: 85-67
2017 Record vs. Washington: 2-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Jon Lester (11-8), Jake Arrieta (14-9), John Lackey (11-11), Kyle Hendricks (7-5), Jose Quintana (6-3)
Top position players: Kris Bryant (.292 BA, 28 HRs, 69 RBIs), Anthony Rizzo (.278 BA, 32 HRs, 107 RBIs)

If these two teams were to meet up, it would be easily the best starting pitching match-up in the National League. Likely the Cubs would only go to four guys, maybe three if they get desperate. With Jake Arrieta on the mind, that would be a dicey move to start the postseason. They have not played to the level that the 2016 did a year ago, but a majority of the position players are still in place and can still put together a run.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS PREVIEW

Current record: 81-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Zach Davies (17-9), Chase Anderson (11-3), Brandon Woodruff (2-2), Brent Suter (3-2)
Top position players: Domingo Santana (.281 BA, 28 HRs, 80 RBIs), Travis Shaw (.274 BA, 30 HRs, 96 RBIs)

As one of the hottest teams in the first half of the season, the Brewers are only relying on their early success. Their team has quickly cooled off and their number two starter Jimmy Nelson is out the remainder of the season. The rest of the roster is shaky at best as they are trying to stay relevant in the postseason chase. If the Nationals are fully prepared for the playoffs there should be no worries if Milwaukee represents the Central.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS PREVIEW

Current record: 80-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-3
Last head-to-head postseason series: 2012; Cardinals won 3-2 in NLDS
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (12-5), Carlos Martinez (12-11), Lance Lynn (11-7), Michael Wacha (12-8), Luke Weaver (7-1),
Top position players: Yadier Molina (.276 BA, 18 HRs, 82 RBIs), Tommy Pham (.311 BA, 21 HRs, 168 RBIs)

With both the Brewers and Cubs you know what you are getting, with the Cardinals it could be anything. The starting pitchers have a history of success, just not in 2017. Also how Wainwright comes back will be a huge factor in how the Central race will play out and how their odds in the postseason increase. With a mix of a young and aging line-up, the Cardinals can both win with the long ball and piece runs together by playing small ball. St. Louis is easily the most interesting team of the three and could be the scariest if the Wainwright comes back at 100%.

Both the Brewers and the Cardinals have to rely on each other to win the NL Central. They cannot do it on their individual series's alone.