“If that game swings the other way, you don’t sleep too well tonight. It puts more pressure on you tomorrow. It was like a playoff atmosphere,” said Tracy, who’s played in them. “So we’re preparing for ’em.”
“Just a thing of beauty,” said reliever Tyler Clippard, mock seriously.
Nights like this form a community for those who stay to the end to see them together. The last Metro train from the Navy Yard station left nearly an hour before the final walk-off win — the Nats’ ninth of the year, the second most in baseball. A few thousand fans remained.
They’d jumped to their feet twice when Jayson Werth hit balls that looked for an instant like walk-off homers. One was a potential grand slam that died on the left field warning track in the bottom of the eighth, the other a drive to right in the 11th inning that died perhaps one foot short of clearing the fence for a homer.
They leaped up to scream when Adam LaRoche came even closer in the 10th inning with a ball that Johnson described as “inches” from ending the game instead of being caught with a baby hop at the top of the fence. As it did, the lone Nats reliever left — Craig Stammen, who pitched two scoreless innings for the win — rooted for it to carry. “Not quite,” Stammen said. “I had already gotten ready to jump up and down and had to stop.”
All around the Nats’ clubhouse the same word echoed, “Playoffs.”
“It’s huge,” said Tracy, “and they know that, too.”
After the game, the Braves were six games behind in the NL East and wondering how dire their future may look if the next two games here don’t turn out well for them. And the Nats are even more pumped.
How long could Stammen have continued to pitch if Tracy hadn’t hit for him? He’d pitched Sunday. “Forever,” he said. “My arm felt pretty fresh. I was going to go back to my days as a starter.
“A lot of us have never played in an important baseball game,” he added. “Well, since college or high school. There’s more anxiety, more adrenaline.”
More everything. Get used to it.
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.