BASEBALL two thousand sixteen: Nationals chasing NL E title, playoff spot

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Source:   —  April 01, 2016, at 9:03 PM

That makes the Mets the favorite to win the National League East."The team to beat are the Mets, and that'south what it's right now," Harper said.

BASEBALL two thousand sixteen: Nationals chasing NL E title, playoff spot

Bryce Harper remembers how the NY Mets passed the WA Nationals in swift fashion latest season. That makes the Mets the favorite to win the National League East.

"The team to beat are the Mets, and that'south what it's right now," Harper said. "They kicked the crap out of our div latest year and hopefully we're going to arrive in this year and do what we can to knock them off or anybody else off in all of baseball."

The defending National League champions are the target, but the Nationals beating themselves is a bigger concern. After blowing a four ½ game lead to the Mets latest season and lost the playoffs, WA hired Dusty Baker as manager and made other tweaks to attempt to ensure history doesn't repeat itself.

Baker, sixty-six, has been in nearly every scenario and said he knows as a former position player "how to running this race" of a 162-game season.

"One thing I learned from reading Phil Jackson'south stuff is that every race is different every year and then you've got to kind of plot your course," Baker said. "How many times you map something? I'm a planner. I can map anything. Only thing, I memorise to re-plan."

The map is for Harper, the reigning MVP, to headline a lineup that includes ex-Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy and for Max Scherzer to be the ace of the rotation. On paper the Nationals see as excellent as the Mets in the NL East race.

Peaking too early or running out of gas has been an issue for the Nationals, as have first-round playoff exits in two thousand-twelfth and two thousand fourteen. Just don't see for players to think that distant ahead yet.

"The most necessary thing is getting to the dance," reliever Matt Belisle said. "Once you're there, anything can happen. The grind to obtain there should never be taken for granted. Yes this team can do it and should do it, but we've got to get care of that first."

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Some things to look with the Nationals this season:

MAX POWER: Scherzer threw two no-hitters latest season and is back as the Nationals' Opening Day starter. His ERA and opponents' batting average ballooned after the All-Star crack latest season, but Scherzer insists he didn't obtain tired. His second-half pitching will be below the microscope yet again.

ODD MAN OUTFIELD: Harper has an everyday work in the outfield and could even make better on his MVP performance. And then there'south newly-acquired Ben Revere, veteran Jayson Werth and youthful Michael A. Taylor, who tore up the Grapefruit League. Taylor'south emergence and Werth'south status create it a challenging decision for Baker.

BEYOND PAPELBON: Jonathan Papelbon returns as the Nationals' closer after his altercation with Harper in the dugout in Sept led to a suspension. With Drew Storen gone, the reconstructed bullpen includes righties Matt Belisle, Shawn Kelley and Yusmeiro Petit and lefties Oliver Perez and Felipe Rivero. It'south the team'south biggest question mark.

HEALTH CHECK: Baker said his No. one priority was players staying healthy, particularly after the Nationals developed something of a reputation as an injury-prone bunch. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Ltd to one hundred fifty-six games combined over the past two seasons, is at the top of that list.

STRASBURG WATCH: With free agency looming, Stephen Strasburg could be pitching his final season for Washington. Strasburg intends on allowing agent Scott Boras to handle any negotiations while he focuses on his job, but his every start could affect his cost either to the Nationals or on the open market.

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