Would it benefit the Nationals to finish with the NL’s second-best record and not the first?


(Bob Levey/GETTY IMAGES)

Given this season’s quirky and new playoff format, there are pros and cons. And maybe, just maybe, it seems like there’s a case to be made for securing the second-seed in the NL playoffs instead of the first. Consider the scenarios below and judge for yourself.

Here’s what the playoff bracket would look like if the season ended today:

IF THE NATIONALS FINISHED FIRST:

No. 1 seed vs. one-game wild-card winner: NL East winner Nationals would play the winner of the one-game playoff beginning on Oct. 7 between No. 4 Atlanta Braves and No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals.

No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 seed: NL Central winner Cincinnati Reds would play the NL West winner San Francisco Giants beginning on Oct. 6.

(Wild-card game on Oct. 5: No. 4 Atlanta Braves play No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals.)

Pros of this scenario:

●The Nationals would play either of the lowest-seeded teams in the playoffs and, presumably, teams with the two worst records. (But, of course, the Braves throw a wrench into this because, they have the same record as the Giants, even after Friday night’s loss in San Francisco.)

The Nationals could be potentially facing their opponent’s second-best pitcher. The two teams in the one-game wild-card would presumably use their best pitcher for that game.

Cons:

●The Nationals wouldn’t know until two days before who they were playing. The one-game wild-card round is on Oct. 5 and the division series starts on Oct. 7.

●The Nationals wouldn’t know until two days before where they were playing, either. Because the new playoff format was agreed to late and after the season schedule was set, the Nationals would have to play the first two games of the NLDS in either Atlanta or St. Louis. The final three games of the five-game series would be in Washington. (Normally, it’s a 2-2-1 format with the higher seeds hosting the first two games and a Game 5, if needed.)

●The series would start on the road.

IF THE NATIONALS FINISHED SECOND

No. 1 seed vs. one-game wild-card winner: NL Central winner Reds would play the winner of the one-game playoff beginning on Oct. 7 between No. 4 Atlanta Braves and No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals.

No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 seed: NL East winner Nationals would play the NL West winner San Francisco Giants beginning on Oct. 6.

(Wild-card game on Oct. 5: No. 4 Atlanta Braves play No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals.)

Pros of this scenario:

●The Nationals would know who they were playing and where. The regular season ends on Oct. 3, so instead of waiting the end of the one-game playoff on Oct. 5, they would have three days to prepare for the opening game on Oct. 6.●

Cons:

●The Nationals could play a team with a better record, and potentially a better team, than if they finished with the best overall record. They would be facing the No. 3 seed instead of the No. 4 or No. 5.

●The series still would start on the road.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.

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