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Changes coming for Washington Nationals in 2018... ready or not

Jayson Werth’s contract is up. Dusty Baker’s contract is up. Changes are coming for the Washington Nationals...

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Asked before Game 5 of the NLDS with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday if he would allow himself a moment to reflect and think about what the game meant to him personally, in his career, and what it meant to the organization, as a whole, Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker told reporters he thought thinking about anything other than the task at hand, “... puts unnecessary pressure on you.”

“So you just try to deal with preparing your team one inning at a time, one pitch at a time,” Baker said.

“If you can simplify it down to a matter of ones, then it remains simple. If you look at the whole nine innings before you even start...”

But he knew what was at stake.

“Yeah, I know what's at stake. I mean, my team knows what's at stake. Everybody knows what's at stake. The Cubs know what's at stake.”

“I had the question earlier,” Baker continued, referring to a question he fielded about what motivated him to keep going at this point, at 68, with 19 seasons player and 22 as a manager behind him.

Divisional Round - Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals - Game Five Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

“This is one thing that keeps me going and keeps me motivated. You know, same thing that kept me going and kept me motivated and kept me going as a player: Big situations, big at-bats, big plays. All of these things are things that you dream about when you're a kid, you know.”

“Because when I was playing in the backyard with my brother, you know, Baker was always up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth you know what I mean,” he said, drawing laughter from reporters, “I still play that game.”

The finality of the loss hit quickly though, and Baker and his team felt it after dropping a season-ending 9-8 decision to the Cubs.

“It really hurts, you know, to lose like that,” Baker said. “Especially after what we went through all year long, and that was tough.”

It hit Jayson Werth, who likely played his last game as a National, fairly hard as well.

“It was a tough one,” the 38-year-old outfielder said. “Not really totally sure what happened, that was one of the craziest games I’ve ever been a part of.

“I’m proud of these guys, we battled, we fought, this is tough, this stings a little bit.”

Werth wasn’t ready to look at the big picture yet, he said, or think about what the future holds, now that his 7-year/$126M deal with the Nationals is up.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I haven’t given it much thought at any point this season,” Werth said. He did, however, offer his thoughts on how things changed since he signed on in D.C. in the winter of 2010-11.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here obviously, and this place has come a long way in seven years. No regrets. We gave it all we had. I know I gave it everything I had, left it all out there, I’m proud to call myself a National, and before I came here, I don’t know if anybody would have said that, you know.”

Bryce Harper didn’t seem interested in contemplating a Nationals team without Werth on it, after he actually came up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and a chance to tie it up but went down swinging for the final out of the season.

“Definitely pretty sad about that,” Harper said, “not sure if [Werth is] going to come back next year or not, but it’s been a pleasure playing with him.

“One of the guys that I’ve grown up with the past six or seven years, he’s always been there for me no matter what, and gonna miss seeing him out there.”

And Baker, whose contract is up as well?

“I think that decision is made from up top, I don’t want to comment on that really,” Harper said.

This isn’t how it was all supposed to end.

“It’s crazy to think that we didn’t win that game,” Werth said. “This one’s tough. I love these guys, I love this team, and to think that it’s over right now is tough to swallow.”

It’s going to be different in 2018. How different?