There was one quote from last night’s celebration that I didn’t get around to dropping into any of my earlier entries, but wanted to make sure to pass along before the night fades away.
“He frickin’ pitched his butt off this year,” Harper said. “It really sucked that he had to be shut down, but it’s OK. We’ve got the crown of the NL East and hopefully we can get deep into October. Next year’s going to be a lot of fun because he gets to throw the whole year.”
One young phenom crediting another. Can you picture what next season could be like with a 20-year-old Harper fresh off a season with at least 22 home runs and Strasburg pitching without any limits placed on him? That could be fun.
So, now that the celebration is over and all the champagne has been spilled, where do the Nats go from here? What’s the next step as the team prepares to move into postseason play?
Well, the first step is trying to find a way to play two more regular season games despite rainy conditions and a bleak forecast for tonight. If you don’t live in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area, you might not be aware of the steady rain, which has been falling for much of the morning and early afternoon, and the 60 percent chance of rain from 7 p.m. into the late hours of the night.
The Nationals have clinched the division and the Phillies have no shot at a playoff berth, but these games still have some meaning. The Nats and Reds are grappling for the No. 1 seed in the National League, and are currently tied with the best record in baseball. Should the two teams finish in a tie with the same record, the Nats hold the tiebreaker thanks to a superior head-to-head record.
Both tonight and tomorrow’s games will need to be played because of the seeding situation, so we could either have a long night ahead of us tonight or a doubleheader tomorrow on the final day of the season. I’d imagine that Major League Baseball wouldn’t want anything spilling over to Thursday, which is set to be strictly for any tiebreaker games.
The seeding in the NL is important not only because it will determine who each team’s opponent will be, but also because it will determine when those Divisional Round games will be played. The top seed will play the wild card play-in winner with Game 1 set for Sunday. The No. 2 seed will fly out to San Francisco and play the Giants, with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday.
Manager Davey Johnson said yesterday that he’d like to get the top seed in order to allow him to pitch 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez on normal rest for Game 1 on Sunday. Gonzalez had been scheduled to make his final regular season start today, but there are indications that Gonzalez will have that start bumped.
Instead, he could get in some light side work today, or in the coming days, and then pitch on extra rest either Saturday or Sunday, depending on when the Nats open.
It will be interesting to see how Johnson structures his lineup today. There are probably a couple guys who could use a rest (Kurt Suzuki for one, and possibly Michael Morse) but Johnson indicated that he’d like to lock up that No. 1 seed. It might still be all (or most) hands on deck.