Washington, D.C. Has A Post-Season Baseball Team For The First Time Since 1933
Congratulations to the Washington Nationals:
The final out burrowed into catcher Kurt Suzuki’s mitt and closed a chapter in Washington’s baseball history. The strike-three slider Drew Storen threw past Hanley Ramirez on Thursday night ended the woebegone era, when this city was forced to either watch a hapless team or dream of having one.
The scoreboard at Nationals Park flashed “NATS CLINCH” in huge, white block letters. The 30,359 fans exulted. Red and white fireworks exploded into the starless sky, and smoke hovered over the field as the players pulled on red shirts and gray hats emblazoned with words once foreign to the nation’s capital: “Playoffs” and “postseason.”
The Nationals’ 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched Washington’s first baseball postseason in 79 years, an achievement that sent fans into delirious celebration and caused a knock on Manager Davey Johnson’s office door not long after 10:02 p.m., when the last pitch crossed the plate.
He was in his office, saying good night to his wife, Susan. Players dragged him into the clubhouse, where a long table had been set up. Bottles of Korbel and empty flutes had been placed on top. Every player got a glass. “Of course,” right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said in reference to Bryce Harper, the team’s underage outfielder, “Bryce had water.”
His team encouraged Johnson to speak, and the 69-year-old manager, back in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, responded not with a valedictory, but a rallying cry.
“We ain’t done yet,” Johnson said.
The Nationals toasted and sipped the champagne. They did not spray it. The victory had guaranteed only a wild-card berth, a one-game play-in. As they acknowledged the moment, they kept their sights set higher.
“This is no doubt a big day for this organization and this city,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “Not to downplay the day at all, but guys aren’t satisfied at all. We don’t look at this like mission accomplished.”
The victory lowered the Nationals’ magic number to clinch the National League East to eight with 13 games remaining, and it increased their lead to 51 / 2 games over the idle Atlanta Braves. They also stayed a half-game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds, who won Thursday afternoon, for the best overall record in the majors.
“That was fun,” Johnson said of clinching at least a one-game playoff. “But that’s not what I had my eye on.”
That they had clinched any kind of playoff berth, though, begged for reflection. Owner Ted Lerner, the Rockville native who made a fortune in real estate and bought the team in 2006, stood outside the clubhouse, holding one of the hats in his left hand. “Great,” he said, unable to find any more words. “Great.”
It was the first time since 1933 that a baseball team from the nation’s capitol had won a post-season bearth.
It’s too bad they’ll have to lose to the Yankees in the World Series.