When this season started, I thought the Nationals might well win about 72 games this year. An improvement over last year’s tally of 69, but hardly a big step forward. With four games remaining, the Nationals are 77-80, still in reach of .500 ball. The Nationals are 14-9 in September, their best span of the second half, and have been playing meaningful baseball in September for the first time since 2005. While winning out isn’t a given, with Atlanta playing for their lives, and the dominance of the Marlins over the Nats, it’s still a distinct possibility that this team could finish at 81-80.
Today’s victory over the Braves can largely be placed in the hands of the battery, with Chien Ming Wang throwing 6 strong innings and limiting the Braves to a single run, and Pudge Rodriguez’s eighth inning rally-killing theft-prevention throwout of Michael Bourn. The veteran catcher’s final home start of the year (and possibly in a Nationals uniform) was certainly one of his more memorable ones, calling a phenomenal game against the very tough Braves offense, and nabbing two runners on the basepaths, as well going 1-2 with a walk.
After the game, manager Davey Johnson was very complimentary of both. Of Wang, he said, “[he had] a remarkable season, got better every time out… If I’m here [next year] he can have my salary. If you’d seen him throw in December, and where he is right now, my hat goes off to him.” Regarding his catcher, Johnson was praising of his training routine (5 hours a day, 7 days a week), and gave no thought to pulling Pudge early for a standing ovation.