The Nationals raced out to a big early lead, then held off the Indians the rest of the way for a 10-7 victory over the Indians at Nats Park.
The win guarantees the Nats home field advantage for Tuesday's National League wild card game. After starting the season 19-31, the Nats rebounded to go 72-38 (.655), and are now 92-69 with one game remaining in the regular season.
Gerardo Parra crushed his second grand slam of the season, Anthony Rendon delivered a two-run double in a nine-run second inning for the Nats. Adam Eaton, AsdrÃºbal Cabrera and Patrick Corbin all added RBI singles.
Juan Soto had a double, was intentionally walked, and scored two runs. Parra ended up with two hits, two runs and four RBIs. Ryan Zimmerman had two singles, a run and an RBI. The Nats brought 12 batters to the plate in the nine-run second frame, pounding out seven hits.
"It's huge," Zimmerman said of the offensive onslaught from every corner of the lineup. "Especially in the postseason, a lot of teams do things differently, they pull starters quicker. Postseason is a lot different than the regular season so for Davey (Martinez) to be able to have a lot of options, whoever starts, whoever comes off the bench, to kind of matchup with the other teams moves. It's a huge positive for him."
The Nats needed the big offense because of an unusual off-day for Corbin. The southpaw allowed six runs on seven hits, including three homers, in just 4 1/3 innings, as the Indians mounted a comeback. Franmil Reyes crushed a two-run round tripper, Jordan Luplow hit a solo homer and Erik Haase cranked his first major league homer, a three-run shot.
"I think he ran into a little bit of ... his tempo got really fast, got really, really quick," said Martinez. "My history of watching guys like that when we score that many runs, you're almost like trying to get through five or six innings, because all of a sudden, he started going really fast. When he does that, he starts spiking his sliders and his fastball gets a little erratic."
Corbin did not see himself hurrying at all with a 9-0 lead, but instead was pleased to get his work in whether they pitch him Tuesday or not. He threw 94 pitches, 59 for strikes.
"I felt good. Results weren't there but got my work in," Corbin said. "Looking forward to Tuesday, playing in front of our home fans. We are hot at the right time. Hopefully guys can get some rest here next couple of days and be ready to go Tuesday at home."
Martinez has said with Tuesday's game being a must win, he will not hesitate to go to starters Stephen Strasburg, AnÃbal SÃ¡nchez or Corbin if Max Scherzer gets into any trouble early on. Corbin said he wants to pitch in that game.
"I'll be ready to go," Corbin said. "I wanted to definitely get work in today and in case they don't use me on Tuesday I want to be as far off to start a game and get back around 100 pitches. I'll be ready to go if my name's called. It's a do-or-die game Tuesday so it will be exciting."
Zimmerman, celebrating his 35th birthday with the win Saturday, understands the impact of Tuesday's win-or-go-home finality, having been through heartbreaking game 5 losses three times in his career here with the Nats.
"Every game in the playoffs is must win," Zimmerman said. "Nobody wants to lose Game 1 of a series. You go into every game with the same mind set, try and treat it the same as all the other ones you've ever played. Don't try and do too much, stay within yourself, have fun."
With Corbin lasting only 4 1/3 innings, the bullpen, which has sometime been questioned this season, came through to hold the lead. Over the final 5 2/3 innings, five Nats relievers combined to allow only one run - a late homer from Luplow, his second of the game.
Wander Suero walked the first batter he faced, but then recorded two outs to close out the fifth. Javy Guerra gave up a base hit but struck out one to get through the sixth. Fernando Rodney walked the first two batters he faced in the seventh, but managed to induce a 6-4-3 double play from shortstop Yu Chang to end the seventh.
And now the Nats have one more regular season game Sunday before they focus on the Cardinals or the Brewers Tuesday night.
So does a wild card feel different than a five-game series?
"Obviously on paper it's different, but the postseason is the postseason," Zimmerman said. "For me you try and win every single game because you have no idea what's going to happen. Game 1 of a five-game series you're trying to win that game just as much. The win and go home thing is fun for the fans but yeah just happy to be in the postseason, going to treat it like any other game and have some fun."