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Nats forced to play afternoon games in NLDS

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Nats forced to play afternoon games in NLDS

The first two postseason games by a Washington baseball team in 79 years will have late-afternoon starting times, and don't be surprised if that trend continues next week once the National League Division Series returns to the District.

Major League Baseball today announced starting times for all postseason games through Tuesday, revealing that Game 1 of the NLDS between the Nationals and the winner of today's NL Wild Card Game between the Braves and Cardinals will begin at 3:07 p.m. EDT Sunday. Game 2 will be played at 4:37 p.m. EDT Monday.

Start times for Games 3-5 -- scheduled to be played Wednesday through Friday at Nationals Park -- have not been announced yet. But it's likely that Game 3 will feature another afternoon start, and it's possible the same could be true for potential Games 4 and 5.

Why all the day baseball? Because the Nationals, as the No. 1 seed in the NL, have the same Division Series schedule as the Yankees, the AL's top seed. And MLB and TBS (which is broadcasting all but two Division Series games over the next week) prefer to showcase the star-studded, 27-time World Series champs from New York in primetime whenever possible.

Thus, the Yankees will open their ALDS on the road Sunday night against the winner of tonight's Wild Card Game between the Orioles and Rangers at 6:15 p.m. EDT and will play Game 2 on Monday at 8:07 p.m., with the Nationals serving as the lead-in both days.

Sunday's Game 1 also will partially run up against the Redskins' 1 p.m. home game against the Falcons.

Start times for the final three games of the NLDS, all scheduled to be played in Washington, likely won't be announced until the last possible minute because they could be affected by the status of other Division Series that could be wrapped up by then. The NLDS between the Giants and Reds and the ALDS between the Tigers and Athletics could be over as early as Tuesday if one team sweeps the three-game series.

But if either of those series extends to four games, it would affect the starting time for Wednesday's Game 3 between the Nationals and Braves or Cardinals.

If the games at Nationals Park end up being played in the afternoon, outfielders from both teams will have to contend with the potentially difficult sun that resulted in three dropped flyballs over the course of two days Sept. 23-24.

Meanwhile, a familiar (and not-so-popular) face will be umpiring the Nationals' Division Series: Marvin Hudson. Hudson, who blew a call at first base during a Sept. 15 loss to the Braves that led to manager Davey Johnson's lone ejection of the season, was named by MLB as one of the six umpires on the crew for this series.

The full list of umpires: Joe West (crew chief), Paul Emmel, Ed Hickox, Hudson, Jim Joyce and Alfonso Marquez.

Per MLB rules, umpires are not allowed to work consecutive postseason rounds. Thus, anyone umpiring in the Division Series cannot work in the League Championship Series, though they are eligible to return for the World Series.

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Stephen Strasburg has career-high 15 strikeouts in Nationals win over Padres

Stephen Strasburg has career-high 15 strikeouts in Nationals win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg dominated San Diego with a career-high 15 strikeouts while allowing three hits over seven innings as the Washington Nationals beat the Padres 3-0 on Saturday.

Strasburg (6-1) singled and scored Washington's first run on Bryce Harper's RBI grounder in the third inning. Michael A. Taylor hit a two-run homer for the second consecutive game.

San Diego's lineup offered little resistance against Strasburg the day after Max Scherzer dominated the Padres with 13 strikeouts in Washington's 5-1 win.

Strasburg struck out the side in the third and sixth and had at least two in the first six innings.

The right-hander previously struck out 14 batters twice including his Major League debut on June 8, 2010. He set a personal best by setting down Franchy Cordero in the seventh.

Matt Albers pitched the eighth and Koda Glover the ninth for his fifth save.

Clayton Richard (3-6) followed up his complete-game victory over the Diamondbacks on May 21 by allowing three runs and 10 hits over six innings.

One out after Anthony Rendon's leadoff single in the sixth, Taylor drove a pitch over the wall in center field for his fourth homer of the season.

Washington has won two straight and five of six.

San Diego is 5-13 since May 9.

Strasburg registered his third win in as many starts. The San Diego native is 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA for his career against his hometown team.

He also matched the Padres' hit total thru five innings. After moving to third base following his leadoff single in third, Strasburg beat a throw home from first baseman Yangervis Solarte for a 1-0 lead.

San Diego loaded the bases with one out in the first following a single, a throwing error by first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Cory Spangenberg's four-pitch walk. Strasburg ended the threat by striking out Austin Hedges on three pitches.

The Padres had two singles in the sixth, but Strasburg recorded strikeouts for the final two outs. Washington pitchers finished with 17 strikeouts.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals players visit local little league baseball teams

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Nationals players visit local little league baseball teams

Nationals players visit local little league baseball teams

The Nationals visited several Washington D.C.-area little league baseball teams on Saturday before their afternoon game against the Padres.

The Nats’ Youth Baseball Uniform Program enables the team to get involved in their community. In addition to visiting local youth teams, the Nationals give all each player a jersey, a hat and the opportunity to come to a game at Nats Park.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER LAUNCHES MAMMOTH HOME RUN INTO THIRD DECK AT NATIONAL PARK

The goal of the program is to “breakdown and minimize financial barriers that can prevent kids from playing baseball.”

Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Max Scherzer were among the 10 Nats who went on the community visits.

Harper at one point encouraged kids not to settle for losing, saying “as much as they might tell you it’s okay you lost - no.”

Giving back to the community has always been important for the Washington Nationals, and all the players - from little leaguers to major leaguers - seem to enjoy it. 

More Nationals: 'YOU CAN'T NICKEL AND DIME A BULLPEN'