The Nationals beat the Braves in their season series, 10-8, so if necessary a one-game playoff for the National League East crown would be played at Nationals Park the day after the season ends a week from Wednesday. The loser of that game would at least host the wild card play-in game, to be played a week from Friday. If the Nationals won the play-in game, they would …
Stop. We don’t need to discuss the Nationals’ doom scenarios, not just yet, not after their 6-3 loss to the Phillies last night. The Nationals still lead the NL East by four games with eight to play. If the Nationals lose and the Braves win tomorrow, well, that would make the division a bit interesting. For now, the Nationals still have plenty of room to take care of business.
The most feasible way for the Braves to tie the Nationals would be going 6-2 while the Nationals go 2-6, and that is not all that feasible. The Nationals are by no means taking things for granted. Tuesday afternoon, a fan tried to congratulate Werth, and he replied that the Nationals hadn’t won anything yet. He’s right, but they still have the division awfully close to locked up.
“We lost the battle today,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “We got to win the battle tomorrow, and we’ll win the war.”
Those in the mood to panic can focus on the remaining schedules for the Nationals and Braves. The Nationals have to finish with five games against the Phillies and three against the Cardinals, who hold a slim lead for the second wild-card spot. The Phillies are on wild-card life support, but the Nationals are 5-8 against them this year. The Braves, meanwhile, get to play the Marlins, Mets and free-falling Pirates.
The Nationals, for their part, insisted they’re not busy scoreboard watching. Shortstop Ian Desmond did not even know the Braves had won in a walk-off over the Marlins until reporters told him. “Sounds about right,” he said. “No big deal. We’ve still got eight games to go. We feel pretty good about ourselves.”
As well they should. The Nationals, per the calculations of CoolStandings.com, still have a 96.5 percent chance to win the National League East.
“It feels pretty much even keel to me,” Desmond said. “I think it’s a little different coming to Philly and not having sold-old crowds and people going crazy. Other than that, it felt the same today.”
In the race nobody is watching, the Nationals are now tied with the Cincinnati Reds for best record in the National League and the top seed. Johnson said Monday that he thinks the top seed may not hold any advantages. He’s concerned only about winning the division, and what the Nationals can do every day.
FROM THE POST
Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson both made it sound like Johnson will manage the Nats next year, Barry Svrluga writes.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
THE PLAYOFF PICTURE
Nats’ magic number to clinch the division: 5
Nats’ magic number to clinch the top seed: 8*
*The Nationals and Reds are tied, but since the Nationals beat the Reds in the season series (5-2), they currently hold the top seed. The Giants are four games back of the Nats and Reds.
Current NL matchups
Nationals vs. Braves/Cardinals*
Reds vs. Giants
*The Braves clinched at least a wild-card berth last night. The Cardinals lead the race for the second wild card by 4½ games over the Brewers, 4 1/2 games over the Dodgers and 5½ games over the Phillies.