The moment the Nationals clinch Washington’s first postseason berth since 1933 could happen this weekend. Any raucous party that accompanies it will not involve the Nationals.
The Nationals enter their series in Atlanta with a magic number of four to guarantee they finish ahead of the Dodgers in the race for the second wild card. If the Nationals win their first two games and the Dodgers lose their next two, they would clinch a wild-card spot Saturday night.
But Manager Davey Johnson would have his eye set on larger goals. The fickle nature of the wild card – a one-game dice roll to keep the season alive – does not entice Johnson enough to take his focus off clinching the division.
“That’s not a big moment,” Johnson said. “It’s a nice moment, but it’s not a big moment. The additional wild card, to me, just really put more of a burden on the manager, because nobody wants that one. A one-game playoff to get in? The other format, if you were the wild card, you’re in the playoffs. So clinching a one-game playoff doesn’t have any appeal at all to me.”
The Nationals do not plan to celebrate a wild-card berth in full – no champagne, no wild dogpile on the field. They will save that for if and when they clinch the National League East, which they currently lead by 8½ games.
The Nationals could move into division-clinching territory on their next homestand, especially if they win the series vs. the Braves. If they take two of three in Atlanta, their magic number would shrink to seven.