New playoff format has Nationals travel plans on hold

October 3, 2012

(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Nationals Manager Davey Johnson has made his thoughts on the new one-game wildcard format introduced this season abundantly clear: “I hate it.”

Adding a second wildcard team might keep more teams invested in the playoff race deeper into the season, but for the potential top seed, it will keep them in limbo until Friday’s wildcard game.

The Nationals will take Thursday off, except for National League Division Series Game 1 starter Gio Gonzalez and Game 2 starter Jordan Zimmermann, who will come to Nationals Park to throw and work out. Johnson said Friday will be the team’s travel day regardless if they have to fly to San Francisco or play the winner of the St. Louis-Atlanta game.

If the Nationals earn the second seed and have to face the Giants, the Nationals will leave for San Francisco early Friday morning and have team workouts there that afternoon before the opening game on Saturday.

If the Nationals notch the top seed, they will have to wait until the wildcard game is over to travel, Johnson said. The slots for Friday’s AL and NL wildcard games are 4 5 and 8 8:30 p.m., and the order of the games hasn’t yet been determined. The Nationals will have team workouts before and then fly to either Atlanta or St. Louis for Sunday’s opening game. The uncertainty even gave Johnson pause, who had hoped the Nationals would be on the plane and flying by 8 p.m. on Friday.

“Atlanta and St. Louis aren’t in the same place,” he quipped.

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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