Health, not home field, is Nats' focus



WASHINGTON - As bottles of Korbel champagne sat inside lockers and some players wore the red "NL East Champions" shirts they received days earlier, the Washington Nationals tried quickly to move on to the next step.

The first team to pop bottles as division champions this season has bigger goals. Washington is only 3 1/2 games back of the languishing Los Angeles Dodgers, losers of 11 in a row, for home-field advantage throughout the postseason, something manager Dusty Baker has been monitoring even as West Coast start times test him.

"I've been paying close attention to them the whole time - the teams that have a better record than us or are near us," Baker said Tuesday. "I pay attention to it all."

Baker knows all about the Dodgers' struggles and, just in case the Nationals make the World Series, the Cleveland Indians' winning streak and the status of the Houston Astros. But he'd prefer his players focus on their day-to-day job with the Atlanta Braves in town this week before the Dodgers visit for what could be an important three-game series over the weekend.

No problem there, especially for the players who think home-field advantage is worth less than the corks they had strewn all over the clubhouse Sunday.

"It doesn't matter," shortstop Trea Turner said. "I think that's how all of us feel, player-wise. We had home-field advantage last year. It didn't matter."

As Turner pointed out, not only has Washington lost in the NL Division Series with home-field advantage before, but this year's team is tied with Houston for the second-most road victories in the majors. That's why the Nationals consider the next two-plus weeks a chance to peak at the right time for October and get some guys healthy.

No one is more important in that department than outfielder Bryce Harper, who has been out since mid-August with a significant bone bruise in his left knee.

Indians chase win streak record that includes tie

CLEVELAND - As they climb toward baseball history with every win, the streaking Cleveland Indians are chasing a hallowed, 101-year-old record that includes an asterisk.

A major league asterisk.

The 26-game winning string by the 1916 New York Giants includes a tie.

Not everyone is aware of the peculiarity. And as the Indians, who on Monday night extended the longest winning streak in 15 years to 19 straight, have moved into position to threaten New York's revered mark, questions have arisen as to why a team that won 12 consecutive games, played a tie and then ripped off 14 more wins in a row would have the record.

Only three teams - the 1916 Giants, the 1935 Chicago Cubs (21) and the 2002 Oakland Athletics (20) - have won 20 in a row and the Indians, who are closing in on another AL Central title, tried to join them Tuesday night with Cy Young contender Corey Kluber on the mound against the Detroit Tigers.

If they get to 20, the Indians have five more consecutive home games to inch closer to a record that has endured.

Royals 4

White 3

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Brandon Moss hit a grand slam in the first inning Tuesday for his third consecutive game with a homer, powering the Kansas City Royals to a 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Scott Alexander worked out of a ninth-inning jam for his fourth save in six chances. He yielded a double to Adam Engel and a single to Yolmer Sanchez to lead off the ninth. He struck out Yoan Moncada, retired Jose Abreu on a pop to Whit Merrifield and got pinch hitter Matt Davidson on a grounder to end the game.