Oct 2, 2012, 5:35 AM EST
Associated Press photo
Mike Rizzo and his Nationals celebrate after clinching the NL East title.
Updated at 1:35 a.m.
They stood out there on the field during the top of the ninth inning, trying to keep their focus on whichever Phillies player had stepped into the batter’s box. Really, though, everyone with the Washington Nationals — and everyone in the crowd of 35,387 — was focused on the upper left-hand corner of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field, where their true fate was being determined.
Two hundred forty-six miles away in Pittsburgh, the Atlanta Braves were down to their final out, unexpectedly trailing the Pirates 2-1 and desperately trying to rally, a man on first and Brian McCann at the plate during an at-bat that seemed to take 79 years to be completed.
“We were out there for the top half, and it flashes up there that there’s two outs with a man on first,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “And we played the whole inning with two outs and a man on first!”
Then Drew Storen got Domonic Brown to ground out to second just as Jared Hughes got McCann to tap a comebacker for the final out at PNC Park, and suddenly a wild celebration was underway in Washington, even though the home team was on the verge of a 2-0 loss to its hated rivals.
“We came in the dugout, and all the fans were going nuts,” Werth said. “So we started going nuts. I don’t know if we even knew.”
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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