The last time a baseball team from Washington was headed to the postseason, Goose Goslin was in the outfield and Washington’s manager, Joe Cronin was doubling as their All-Star shortstop. Heck, the last time a team from Washington made an MLB playoff apperance, Nationals manager Davey Johnson hadn’t even been born yet — in fact he wouldn’t even be born for another ten years.
Fast forward 80 years and Washington is back in the playoffs. With a new name (Nationals rather than Senators) and their 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington has clinched their first playoff berth since 1933.
Although they’ll be without ace Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are hoping to mimic the success of that 1933 ballclub that went all the way to the World Series to challenge and eventually lose to the New York Giants. Despite going on a recent skid, the Nationals own baseball’s best record over the Cincinnati Reds by mere percentage points, and are the second team to punch their October ticket.
Washington not only clinched a berth, they’ve inched closer to sealing up a division title as the Atlanta Braves sit 5.5 games behind with about 13 games left to go in the season. The Braves would like to overtake the Nationals in the N.L. East, but with Washington clinching a berth Thursday night, Atlanta had better concern itself with winning one of the two Wild Card spots in the National League.
As of Friday, the Braves and the Cardinals both own Wild Card spots, but five teams sit at a maximum of 5.5 games behind the Braves with still a whole lot of baseball left to be played.
But up in Washington, the celebrating is just beginning.
If the postseason were to start today, Washington would own the National League’s No. 1 seed and face the aforementioned Braves should Atlanta win it’s Wild Card showdown with the Cardinals.
Baseball changed it’s postseason rules this year to include a second playoff team and always force a sort of “163rd Game”. The top two Wild Card teams play each other with the winner moving on to the Divisional Series round. Prior to this year, if the Wild Card team was from the same division as the team with the No. 1 seed, the Wild Card team played the second best divisional winner.
This year, baseball scrapped that insanely complicated idea and went with a more simplistic (and correct) system. In all honesty, that system was kept alive so we wouldn’t get a hallowed Yankees-Red Sox meeting in the ALDS and it was instead saved for an epic seven game showdown in the ALCS.
Washington still has a lot to accomplish before it even thinks about the Braves in the first round. With 13 games left, and only a half game separating the Nationals and Reds and four games separating both teams from the San Francisco Giants, a lot can happen. Before anyone jumps to conclusions about playoff seedings, let’s not forget the ending to last season and the dash to the finish line that occurred.
Despite the fact playoff berths are being locked up, playoff positioning is still up in the air and it’s looking like we will have another photo finish this year, but this time in the National League.