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Porter's head, heart still with Nationals

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Porter's head, heart still with Nationals

PHILADELPHIA -- On the day he was officially named manager of the Houston Astros, Bo Porter found himself in an unusual, yet familiar place: The third base coaching box, wearing a Nationals uniform.

That will remain the case as long as the Nationals are still playing ballgames in 2012. Once their season ends, Porter will head home to Houston and turn his full-time attention to his new job. Until then, he insists his head and his heart will be entirely in Washington.

"Right now," Porter said, "all I really want for Christmas is one thing: a World Series ring."

"My focus is on the Washington Nationals and our quest to win the World Series title," Porter added. "I don't want this to be anything that distracts from what we're doing here. We have a chance to really do something special. The guys in the clubhouse, they know that I'm committed. Davey Johnson, the rest of the coaching staff, Mike Rizzo, the Lerner family, they know that I'm committed to what we have going on here."

In a perfect world, the Astros would have waited until season's end to offer Porter their managerial job. But they had already identified him as their top choice, and perhaps worried other clubs with openings might make a run at the 40-year-old, they decided to make their formal offer on Wednesday.

Owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow flew from Houston to Philadelphia and told Porter in person. His initial reaction was one of joy. It wasn't until he called his wife Stacie, a Houston native, that things turned emotional.

"When I heard her break down on the phone, it really hit me like: 'Wow,'" Porter said. "It was good. It's a good feeling. There's only 30 of these jobs. Whenever you get an opportunity to be named the manager, it's always exciting. With the cherry on top, it's in my hometown. And I'm excited about it."

Because Porter remains under contract with the Nationals through October, the Astros had to get permission from GM Mike Rizzo to make the job offer now. Rizzo didn't hesitate to give his blessing, and he had no problem agreeing to a scenario that will allow Porter to finish out the season here before he leaves the organization after two seasons as third base coach under Jim Riggleman and Davey Johnson.

"It's the fair thing to do," Rizzo said. "I would never stand in anybody's way to get the dream job of their life, in your hometown. It wouldn't be fair for me to say: 'Wait till after the season,' and then them go on their interview process and hire somebody else. That would be selfish of me, and I wouldn't do it."

Nationals execs, coaches and players expressed both excitement for Porter and disappointment they'll lose a popular member of the staff. In addition to his duties at third base, Porter was responsible for coaching the team's outfielders and played a key role in Bryce Harper's development as a rookie.

Porter also was seen as a potential successor to Johnson once the 69-year-old skipper decides to retire. This move obviously takes him out of the mix for that position, and perhaps elevates bench coach Randy Knorr to the role of leading candidate.

"Yeah, we thought of Porter, the plan was that we brought him in here and he was a manager prospect," Rizzo said. "We tried to surround Davey with as many manager prospects as possible, so he could mentor them and so hopefully we have good internal candidates if and when we need to make a decision on that."

The Nationals also will need to hire a new third base coach for 2013. The search won't begin in earnest until the offseason, but both Rizzo and Johnson hinted they would like to promote someone from within the organization.

Tony Beasley, who managed at Class AAA Syracuse this season and served as Frank Robinson's third base coach in 2006, is a likely candidate for that job.

"Whenever I took a new job, I always wanted people in the organization, because they already knew the talent, knew a lot about the makeup because they were in the organization," Johnson said. "This is a fine organization, got a lot of quality coaches and we have a lot of people that I think highly of in our system. I don't think that will be a problem."

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Nationals vs. Braves Preview: Scherzer seeks redemption

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Nationals vs. Braves Preview: Scherzer seeks redemption

ATLANTA -- In his last start, only his second in the major leagues, Atlanta Braves rookie Luiz Gohara outpitched Washington Nationals ace and Cy Young contender Max Scherzer.

On Tuesday, he gets to try it again.

Gohara (1-1, 6.30 ERA) is queued up for a rematch with Scherzer (14-6, 2.59) and the Nationals in the opener of a three-game series at SunTrust Park.

Washington (90-59) has clinched the National League East title for the fourth time in six years. Atlanta (67-81) was mathematically eliminated from playoff consideration after its Sunday loss to the New York Mets. The two teams have split 16 games this season, with the Braves winning two of three last week in Washington.

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Gohara showed why he is in contention to join the Atlanta rotation on a full-time basis in 2018. The big left-hander from Brazil, who went from Class A to the majors in one season, beat the Nationals 8-2 on Wednesday. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits in six innings, striking out six. He didn't issue a walk.

In that start, Gohara located his four-seam fastball -- something he couldn't do in his major league debut against Texas.

"The kid gets locked in and really competes," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "And that's what I heard about him from guys that played with him, the guys that have had him, been around him. They say once he gets out there, he's trying to beat you. That's legit stuff right there, too."

Scherzer endured his worst start of the season against the Braves last week. He gave up a season-high seven runs on seven hits and a season-high six walks in six innings. He threw 116 pitches, part of the plan to stretch him out for the postseason.

"For the first 100 pitches, I felt like I was executing pitches the way I wanted to," Scherzer said. "Then, after pitch 100, that's when the wheels fell off and I was searching for everything. Sometimes that happens. I don't think anything's broken. My arm feels fine. There's nothing wrong here. This is why I needed to pitch that deep into the game, so I can shake off some of that rust."

The big hiccup for Scherzer came when he allowed a grand slam to Braves left fielder Matt Kemp. However, on Tuesday, he isn't likely to face Kemp, who has missed the past two games after leaving the Friday contest with a strained hamstring.

In 16 career appearances, 14 starts, against Atlanta, Scherzer is 6-5 with a 4.04 ERA. In 2017, he has made four starts against the Braves, going 1-2 with a 4.91. He was 4-0 against Atlanta a year ago.

The hottest batter for the Braves has been center fielder Ender Inciarte, who is 10 hits shy of becoming only the seventh player in Atlanta franchise history to reach 200. The last Brave to get 200 hits was Marquis Grissom, who had 207 in 1996.

Washington's Ryan Zimmerman is on the verge of a 30-homer/30-double season. Last week, he joined Adam Dunn as the only Nationals player to post two 30-homer seasons with the club.

 

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MLB Postseason 2017 Bracket Projection

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USA Today Sports

MLB Postseason 2017 Bracket Projection

Two weeks remain in the regular season for the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, and the rest of Major League Baseball.

Already, the Nationals have clinched a spot in the MLB postseason, while the Orioles are still clinging to an outside chance of making it through to one of the two Wild Card spots. If Baltimore were to make the surprise climb they would likely be the third team from the AL East to make the MLB postseason.

NATIONAL LEAGUE:

Washington is joined by the Los Angeles Dodgers as the only two teams to have claimed a playoff berth in the National League. This past weekend the Dodgers took two out of three in a pivotal series from the Nationals to hold on to the top seed. The lead is now up to 6 games for Los Angeles after it was down to only 3.5 games in the middle of the week.

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The Dodgers have not clinched their division yet but with their turnaround in Washington this past weekend it is only a matter of time. Leading the Arizona Diamondbacks by 9.5 games, the Dodgers magic number is only four. With 96 wins, Los Angeles also would be the team to hold home-field advantage throughout the postseason, including the World Series.

Only the National League Central Division has an interesting battle as the year winds down, but the Chicago Cubs maintain a four game edge over the Milwaukee Brewers. Right behind the Brewers are the St. Louis Cardinals, two games back. There is brief two-game series for the Cubs in Tampa Bay before back-to-back road series against the Brewers than the Cardinals. Within a week, this division could be flipped over. It is a near lock that the division winner will be the No. 3 seed.

Arizona is likely to clinch one of the Wild Card berths this week. Colorado currently holds the second spot, and they're 2.5 up on the Brewers.

If the season were to end today, here is how the National League bracket would look:

Wild Card Round (Winner-take-all):

No. 5 Colorado Rockies (82-68) at No. 4 Arizona Diamondbacks (87-63)

National League Divisional Series (Best-of-5):

No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers (96-53) vs. Wild Card Round Winner
No. 2 Washington Nationals (90-59) vs. No. 3 Chicago Cubs (83-66)

Wild Card Race:

Arizona Diamondbacks:  +5.0
Colorado Rockies:              ---
Milwaukee Brewers:        -2.5
St. Louis Cardinals:          -4.5
Miami Marlins:                -12.5

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Thanks to their improbable 22-game winning streak, the Cleveland Indians now sit atop the American League. They hold a slight 1.5 game lead over the Houston Astros for the top seed and home-field advantage in the AL. Both of these teams have already handily clinched their divisions holding on to the No. 1 and 2 seeds.

The incredible run by Cleveland has also put them 3.5 games behind the Dodgers for home-field throughout the entire postseason.

As it does seemingly every year, the American League East will come down to the wire. The New York Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox by only three games with their season series already wrapped up. Of the Yankees final 13 games though, 10 are at home where they are 43-28 on the season. Boston only has seven at home and six on the road. New York also faces an easier stretch playing opponents with a combined .487 win percentage compared to Boston’s .501.

Unlike the National League Wild Card, which is essentially down to four teams, the American League is wide open. Ten teams are mathematically still alive including the Oakland Athletics who are 17 games under .500. New York or Boston will likely take the top Wild Card slot with the Minnesota Twins currently holding down second. The Los Angeles Angels (2.0 games back), Seattle Mariners (4.5 games back), and the Kansas City Royals (5.0 games back) are giving chase.

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It will be tough for the Twins to hold on to the final spot with 10 of their final 13 games being on the road. First up for them is a three-game series in the Bronx. The Red Sox and Orioles also start a three-game series in Baltimore with much on the line for both teams. 

If the season were to end today, here is how the American League bracket would look:

Wild Card Round (Winner-take-all):

No. 5 Minnesota Twins (78-71) at No. 4 New York Yankees (82-67)

American League Divisional Series (Best-of-5):

No. 1 Cleveland Indians (93-57) vs. Wild Card Round Winner
No. 2 Houston Astros (91-58) vs. No. 3 Boston Red Sox (85-64)

Wild Card Race:

New York Yankees:     +4.0
Minnesota Twins:          ---
Los Angeles Angels:     -2.0
Seattle Mariners:         -4.5
Kansas City Royals:      -5.0
Texas Rangers:             -5.0
Baltimore Orioles:       -5.5
Tampa Bay Rays:          -5.5
Toronto Blue Jays:       -8.5
Oakland Athletics:      -12.0

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