“We’ve been playing good teams. There’s no better way to do it,” said reliever Drew Storen of the Nats’ 4-3 homestand against the contending Dodgers and Brewers followed by this 3-3 trip to Philly and St. Louis. “It’s a little gut check now at the end and on our own turf. Every time we’ve needed to win a game, we have. Now we need to get one more.”
The greatest concern for the Nats is not the probability of clinching, but the sloppy and, at times, rattled quality of their play recently. You thought the second-youngest team in baseball was going to cruise through the last week of this race without symptoms of nerves?
At the moment, the Nats have a starting rotation with a split personality. The team’s two main aces, Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, have been near their sharpest form in their last five starts. Entering October, nothing could be better. But the back of the rotation, including a gruesome 7.92 ERA for Jackson in September, has been shaky. No, Stephen Strasburg’s not warming up in the bullpen. That decision was made seven months ago.
Twice in a row, after a breakout season, has Detwiler misplaced his mechanics and rushed his tempo, dropping his elbow and losing his proper arm slot. “The last one [a loss to the Phillies] was a bad inning,” he said. “This one was a bad everything.”
Then, sardonically, he added, “This was for all the fans back in D.C.”
So, for another day or two, but not three — no, lets not make it three — the proper tone is the one that the most experienced Nats recognize.
“It’s not really the time I want to see it,” Johnson said of Jackson and Detwiler’s recent travails. “But they’ve been so good I don’t worry about it. I don’t have a doghouse.
“It’s better to clinch it at home,” Johnson said, “for our fans.”
You could almost believe him. Except that, somewhere, champagne was being packed and carried out of Busch Stadium. Still unopened.
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/