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Washington Punching Bags

Every sport has a team that provides a welcome respite for opponents. A team historically so bad that it represents an almost sure victory for the rival. In Major League Baseball’s National League East, that team is the Washington Nationals. The Florida Marlins in particular have gotten fat at the expense of the Nationals over the past several years. Things seemed destined to change when pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg debuted for the Nationals last year. The most-hyped rookie in years was carrying the Nationals to new heights, including a shutout victory against the Fish last July. But then he tore a ligament in his elbow. And it was back to being a punching bag. The Marlins seemed to have taken the term literally when the two teams brawled last September. Five-foot-ten Nyjer Morgan took exception to a pitch by the Marlins’ six-foot-eight starter, Chris Volstad, and charged the mound. Unfortunately for Morgan, he swung and missed, only to be nailed by Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez. It’s a new season, but Strasburg is still out (and will be for most if not all of this season), and the Nationals are still projected to suck. The punching-bag tag stays. The last matchup of a three-game set against the Nationals begins Thursday at Sun Life Stadium.
Thu., April 7, 7:10 p.m., 2011


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