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Wait is tough for several Nats players on playoff roster bubble

Wait is tough for several Nats players on playoff roster bubble

The four-day layoff for division-winning clubs before their MLB playoffs begin presents a tough dynamic for teams as a whole to try to stay sharp before falling into the intensity of October. It's even tougher for the players on the playoff roster bubble.

The Nationals have plenty of those this year with a deep crop of relievers and a bench that may need an extra guy or two to compensate for injuries in their starting lineup. The Nats have avoided specifics publicly about their thinking for those final roster spots and the players have largely been left in the dark, too. 

Even Clint Robinson, the backup first baseman who has a very good chance of making it, just doesn't know.

"If you want to know the truth, I don't even know if I'm on the playoff roster. We're still waiting on that," Robinson said. "I'm not going to lie and say that [waiting is] easy. It's like the last round of cuts in spring training. You get through the whole year here and then it's like 'man, here comes another round of cuts.' That's not what us as players, that's not usually our thinking."

[RELATED: Tough decisions to make for Nationals playoff roster]

Robinson compared the wait to last spring training when he was one of the final additions to the Nats' Opening Day roster. But then, his mindset was different. He was just looking for a job and his expectations are low. He also had spring training games to play and keep his mind off the final decision itself.

Now it's four full days.

"It stinks, to be honest with you. It stinks," he said. "It's a lot of sitting around, coming out with workouts at 11:30. Everybody just wants to get going. You know the playoffs are right there."

Like Robinson, reliever Sean Burnett is on the roster bubble, though his path to earning a spot isn't quite as clear. Burnett is in a crowded mix of relievers, hoping the fact he's a lefty helps his chances against a Dodgers team that struggles against them.

"They do have a lot of lefties and a bunch of lefties that I've faced throughout my career. I think I've had pretty good success against them. We'll find out what happens," he said.

[RELATED: Dusty Baker: Playoffs 'where I'm supposed to be']

For Burnett to even be at this point is notable in itself. The nine-year veteran made his return to the majors this season after missing all of 2015 with injuries. He's recovered from two Tommy John surgeries and just this season spent time with four different teams. It wasn't until Sept. 3 that he finally got back on the mound in a big league game.

"I've made a lot of progress here in the last couple months. Dating back to a full year ago, looking back on where I've come from, it's pretty neat to be in this opportunity to maybe make a postseason roster," he said. 

"But at the same time, I've gotta look at the big picture and see how far I've come. A year ago, I was sitting at home and watching all this stuff on TV. Now there's a chance, a small chance, that I could be part of it this season. I've made good strides. It was good to get back to the big leagues and have a full year to stay healthy."

Burnett and Robinson are among many Nats players on the bubble still waiting to hear their fate. Some have better chances than others, but only a few will get the call.

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


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Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

When Max Scherzer was a teenager, he didn't know that one day he'd actually become a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had no guarantee he'd make it to the majors, much less play in five consecutive MLB All-Star games. 

All he knew was that he had the option to go pro as a kid or go to college, and back then, the Nationals' ace needed a contingency plan in case baseball didn't work out. Fortunately for Scherzer, it did, but he doesn't regret going to college at the University of Missouri, telling Santana Moss on CSN's "Route 89" going to school was a no-brainer.

"It was actually a really easy decision," Scherzer told Moss. "When you get drafted out of high school, you're going to be going into the minor leagues, and that can take three to five or six years — multiple years — in the minor leagues, and you're forfeiting your right to further your education."

Scherzer was drafted in the 43rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play for Mizzou for three years, which turned out to be a great decision. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted him in 2006 in the first round as the 11th overall pick. 

"A lot of times when you sign out of high school, you don't make it to the major leagues," Scherzer continued. "So I realize that your education — that's your safety net.

"You need to further your education in college, and if you do get drafted out of college, you're in a much better position to try to chase your dreams because if it doesn't work out, you still have one year left of school and that's much easier to obtain rather than try to go through four years when you're not coming out of high school."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound

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Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

SAN DIEGO -- Yangervis Solarte hit a two-run home run off Stephen Strasburg in the first inning of the right-hander's first start in almost a month and the San Diego Padres beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 Saturday night.

Strasburg (10-4) retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a single to Jose Pirela and then the homer to the switch-hitting Solarte, who drove a 96-mph fastball to right for his 13th.

Strasburg then settled down against his hometown team, retiring 10 straight batters and 13 of 14. He went six innings, allowing two runs and four hits while striking out eight and walking one.

He hadn't pitched since July 23, when he went only two innings at Arizona. He went on the disabled list with an elbow nerve impingement.

Strasburg pitched at West Hills High in suburban Santee and then at San Diego State for coach Tony Gwynn before going to the Nationals with the No. 1 pick overall in the 2009 draft.

While Strasburg pitched well, the Nationals had only three hits.

San Diego's Travis Wood (2-1) also settled down after laboring through the first inning, when he threw 35 pitches but didn't allow a run. He was unscathed until the fifth, when he allowed a one-out single to Jose Lobaton and a two-out double to Adrian Sanchez. The run was unearned because of Woods' throwing error on Strasburg's sacrifice bunt that advanced Lobaton.

Wood allowed just the unearned run on three hits in seven innings, with two strikeouts and two walks.

Brad Hand pitched the ninth for his 11th save.