The coming days, starting Sunday afternoon, should provide an agonizing, thrilling, exhausting level of uncertainty and tension that many fans don’t even know exists in sports, certainly not in baseball, a game that, in D.C., has been a sleepy endeavor for 79 years. For relentless sensory bombardment, for hair-yanking twists of fortune, for sudden utterly unexpected explosions of joy, there’s nothing like playoff baseball.
What are we in store for? If the Nats lose in seven games in the National League Championship Series — a middle-of-the-road chalk prediction — Washington would probably have 11 or 12 postseason games in the next 15 or 16 days. Yes, it could be only three games in the next four days at worst. Or it could be 19 in the next 26, though the World Series.
But here’s the highest probability outcome: You’re going to spend the next two weeks going out of your mind on a continuous basis.
No other sport is an exact analogy, but trust me, people in towns with baseball traditions understand: October baseball bears no resemblance to the “pastoral” sport of April through September. The playoffs are more like the Myocardial Infarction Games.
Any of the eight teams that are left, and certainly any team that is good enough to win 98 or 94 games, like the Nats and Orioles, are more than good enough to win the World Series. They may not. But there is no veteran player who doubts that it’s a reasonable outcome.
Beware. If the Nats play like themselves, and don’t collapse into a rattled heap like the Braves did on Friday — which is possible, but unlikely — you better not watch any Nats playoff games at all. Because you get hooked. And it’s a whole lot of games, one right after another before you can get your breath.
The NFL takes two weeks off before the Super Bowl. The Nats (and you) might have only one day off between the division series and the league championship series. There could be five postseason games at Nats Park in six days starting Wednesday. Sleep deprivation is the least of your worries. Hearts (and small pieces of furniture) get broken.
So, this is the point where a prediction is, let’s face it, mandatory. First postseason since 1933, you can’t just say: “It’s baseball. Anything can happen.”
I think the Nats will beat the Cardinals for two reasons — the Nats’ second-half power explosion and their good luck of the pitching matchups throughout this five-game series.