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Wire Taps: Daniel Murphy returns; Nationals stay above luxury tax line; Winterfest at Nats Park

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Catch up on the last 24 hours in Nationals news before the start of the second of four with the Cubs in D.C.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Nationals’ tragic number — the combination of Braves wins and Nats losses to eliminate them from playoff contention — is 16. The Cardinals’ number to knock them out of Wild Card contention is 14. The season could only have seven more meaningful days.

Let’s hear it for links!

Martinez on Zimmerman, Doolittle, Strasburg and the Cubs (MASN)
Sean Doolittle is "very close" to returning from his toe injury that has sidelined him since July — he may come back this weekend.

Daniel Murphy ready for emotional return to Nationals Park (MASN)
“I never expect to get cheered. You just come out, try to do your job and play as hard as you can. But if there’s applause, then I’d be humbled by it.”

Joe Ross set for first start in 14 months (MLB.com)
Joe Ross will return against the Cubs on Friday night for his "second debut" after a 14-month break from the majors that came following Tommy John.

What if big 2018-19 free agents sign together? (MLB)
Let's imagine an NBA-like world in which Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Matt Harvey all go to the Phillies.

Daniel Murphy leads off return to Nationals Park atop Cubs’ order (WaPo)
If Murphy has a similar time with the Nats as he did with the Mets... well, good luck, pitchers.

Could the Nats have made a September run? We’ll never know, and for no good reason (WaPo)
The Nationals jumped ship before going 7-8. Even though they jumped ship, they didn't get under the luxury tax line. All of which bears the question: what did the extra eight days get them, and what could they have missed out on as the Braves and Phillies crumble?

Nats’ Winterfest returns to Nationals Park for the first time since 2011 (WaPo)
Get ready for photos with the bullpen cart in the cold with a team that won't even be built yet, because it'll be December 1st! (In other words... Carter Kieboom autographs!)

Despite sell-off, Nationals will not get under the competitive balance tax threshold (WaPo)
"By selling a few players 10 days before that last-day-of-August waiver deadline, the Nationals shed a little more in salary dollars than they might have if they traded them 10 days later. One could imagine a team calculating the number to the dollar and realizing that every day mattered."

Jayson Werth to be inducted into the Nationals’ Ring of Honor (Yahoo!)
Werth never led the Nats to a playoff series win, and was below league average in four seasons. Really, he represents an era — but since the Nats don't have a World Series banner to fly for the 2010s, Werth's name will suffice.

Reynaldo Lopez’s Quest to Become a Smart Power Pitcher (Fangraphs)
"Lopez has been removing the word ‘raw’ from his reputation. Tutelage from a pair of baseball’s best pitching minds (read: Max Scherzer and co.) is a big reason why."

Nationals Baseball: The 2018 Nats deserve this
"These guys struggled, Bryce struggled, and Roark and Gio went off the rails. What should have been a period where the Nats went around .500 and held ground instead became a time where they crashed and burned."