The Nationals locked up the best record in baseball on Wednesday afternoon before a crowd of 35,000+ on a day that felt nothing like October. The warm weather and sunshine felt more like a day out of July or August than a part of the Fall, a confusion not lost on the team or its fans. The Nationals finished off the Phillies’ hopes for a winning season with a 5-1 victory, lead by Edwin Jackson (10-11, 4.03 ERA) and the bats of Michael Morse, Tyler Moore and Ryan Zimmerman.
Bigger than that, though, Teddy Roosevelt picked up his first win in the Presidents Race, to the cheers of the assembled. The long-suffering racing President, Roosevelt had lost more than 500 races in the years since the Presidents’ Race began, becoming a national joke in the process. Roosevelt, famous for his extensive manly accomplishments, finally drew a win with the help of the Phauxnatic – a faux Philly mascot – and drew a standing ovation from the crowd for his efforts.
It was shortly after Teddy’s first victory that the spark returned to the Nationals’ bats, with Ryan Zimmerman leading off the bottom of the fourth inning with a towering drive that landed in the Nationals’ bullpen, tying the game at 1 apiece. Michael Morse would nearly go back to back with Zimmerman, hitting a double off the very top edge of the wall. Tyler Moore would put the Nationals ahead with another double, and any talk of Teddy’s victory jinxing the Nationals went out the window.
The Nationals are now the number one seed in the National League Playoffs, which begin on Friday in Atlanta. Atlanta will face St. Louis in the Wild Card play-in game, a new feature of the playoffs this year. After that, the Nationals will travel to play games 1 and 2 of the NLDS on the road on Sunday and Monday, and with games 3-5 in DC on Wednesday through Friday of next week.
The prospect of playoff baseball in Washington is nothing short of astonishing when you consider the dismal seasons from 2006 to 2010 here in DC, which represent 478 of the team’s 704 losses. The team has spent five of its first eight seasons in DC at the bottom of the NL East, and to be at the top, you could hear it in the crowd as they belted out Michael Morse’s walk-up music in the 8th inning.
The Nationals will work out in DC on Friday before heading out on Saturday for the first two games of the NLDS.
Notes: Manager Davey Johnson left the game in the 7th inning when his leg went numb. After X-rays, it was revealed there was swelling between L4 and L5 vertebrae. He will be taking anti-inflammatory medication. Bench coach Randy Knorr manned the lineup card in his absence.