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Nats hope to delay Braves’ celebration

Sep 16, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

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The Nationals have thrust themselves back into the pennant race thanks to a torrid month-plus of baseball in which they’ve won 25 of 35 games, leaving themselves 4 1/2 games behind the Reds for the NL’s final Wild Card berth with 13 games to go.

But it’s been no secret all along that the Nationals have pulled this off in large part because of an incredibly advantageous schedule that has seen them play all but six of those 35 games against sub-.500 opponents. That includes a just-completed, 19-game stretch exclusively against the Phillies, Mets and Marlins. The Nationals’ record in those 19 games: 14-5.

So, if nothing else, they’ve proven they can beat up on bad teams. The question now becomes whether they can beat up on good teams, their only hope of finishing off this remarkable late surge and actually making it to October.

The schedule-makers have thrown the Nationals a bone for much of the last month, but they’ll make up for it over the regular season’s final two weeks. The Nats’ final four opponents: the Braves, Marlins, Cardinals and Diamondbacks. Atlanta and St. Louis are headed to the playoffs. Arizona won’t but has kept itself over the .500 mark. And Miami … well, at least the Nationals still get four games with NL’s cellar dwellers.

The stretch run begins tonight when the Braves come to town to open a three-game series. Not that they needed any extra motivation against their chief division rivals, but there is this: The Nationals have to win two out of these three games to prevent Atlanta from clinching the NL East title on their home turf.

“We don’t want that,” manager Davey Johnson said.

Neither do Johnson’s players.

“You never want to see that,” said Denard Span, who carries a 26-game hitting streak into tonight’s series opener. “I hate seeing any type of celebration, especially on our field. I’ve seen that a couple times in my career, see teams jump up and down, and that’s something that we definitely don’t want to have that here.”

The Nationals harbor no false illusions about their chances within the division. They long ago conceded the NL East to the Braves, who led by as many as 15 1/2 games in early August and still lead by 10 games, with their magic number down to 4.

But the Nationals haven’t conceded that they fail to stack up to the Braves, despite the disparity in the standings (or the fact they’ve gone 4-12 in head-to-head matchups so far this season).

“The difference really in the year is we didn’t hold our own with Atlanta,” Johnson said. “We played them a lot of close games, but we didn’t hold our own with them. We need to at least send a message to them these next three days that we’re better than them.”

Better than them? Better than a team that should finish with at least 95 wins and will coast into the postseason?

Well, according to Johnson, yeah.

“I always believed we’re better than them,” the manager said.

That’s not an argument the Nationals are going to win in the court of public opinion, but at this point their only real concern isn’t proving they’re a better team than the Braves. It’s beating the Braves at least twice in the next three days, at least preventing them from dogpiling at the pitcher’s mound at Nationals Park and then spraying champagne all over the visitors’ clubhouse.

It may only delay the inevitable, but it will serve as some consolation to this team, which simply wants to prove to itself and the rest of baseball it actually can beat a good team for a change.

  1. Joe Seamhead - Sep 16, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    Davey sure is providing plenty of bulletin board fodder for the Braves with his “we’re better than them.” Hope our boys back him up!

  2. NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    I think we are better than them right now, which is what matters. No, I don’t think we were better than them, during the first 4+ months of the season.

    (1) Rotation – ours was mediocre, other than JZ. Stras was having strange meltdowns, Gio was inconsistent, Det was injured, 4-5 were a mix of AA tryouts.
    (2) Bullpen – Kimbrel vs Soriano, no contest. Storen, Mattheus, you name it–we had exactly one consistent guy, Clip, and two of his three losses were to the Barves. Seems to be all fixed now, and ATL’s is stumbing.
    (3) Catcher – McCann vs Zuzuki, no contest. Now, Ramos, that’s ANOTHER story.
    (4) 1B – Freeman vs. ALR, less than no contest.
    (5) 2B – Uggla vs Rendon/Lombo/Espinosa – OK.
    (6) SS – Simmons is unbelievable, but Desi is better
    (7) 3B – Love me some RZ, but he didn’t heat up until August and Johnson is crazy with hits
    (8) Outfield – we had the advantage here most of the season, and certainly have it now, until Heyward comes back. But Span not hitting and Harper injured was devastating.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:30 AM

      NatsLady, don’t forget their bench. What a huge difference all year plus the front of the bullpen.

      • NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM

        Good point, Ghost, sorry for the omission. They had Gattis, we had ????????

        My attention is now on CNN and other TV stations. A baseball game is not top on my list right now.

  3. flnatsfan - Sep 16, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    I would love to sweep the Braves this weekend, but realistically, let’s just win the series. Any news on who will pitch on Wednesday?

  4. NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    OK, we need to take 2 of 3 from the Barves and sweep the Fish. In the meantime, Bo Porter needs to scrape together a win in Houston (two wins would be ice cream and cake!). After Houston, the Reds have an off-day, so we can pick up 1/2 game, that leaves us 4 back. Then the Reds play the Pirates. This is our chance. Finish off a sweep of the Fish, Bucs take 2 of 3, that leaves us 2 back with six to go.

    StL will be tough, but they will also be tired and perhaps, desperate. They have to go to Coors for four games (like us, they don’t have an off-day until 9/26). Coors is a crap-shoot, anything could happen, though CarGo is injured which sets the Rox back a lot.

    While we are playing the Fish at home, the Cards have the Brewers in Milwaukee, and we’ve seen that the Brewers are not lying down for anyone. We need to take 2 of 3 and pray for the Mets to take 2 of 3 from the Reds. For whatever reason, the Mets are better on the road than at home, and they will be on the road. Hopefully, David Wright will make the trip. We gain a game.

    Now we are down to the final series in Arizona. Back one game. Reds are at Pittsburgh. With luck, Pittsburgh is either tied with StL, or if they are in the lead, they are playing for best record in the NL and home field advantage. Really don’t want Pitt resting for the last series, and I don’t think they will.

    There’s your season, right there in the last three days. After what this team has been through, can’t ask for more than that.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      Rizzo can make the deal right now that if Bo Porter can win 2 of 3 against the Reds the managers job is his. ;)

      Here’s is Davey’s chance to show what the 2013 Nats have.

  5. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    Can’t wait for 7 PM tonight. We gotta treat each series like a playoff series and each game as elimination game. I don’t think I can concentrate on work today.

    • NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:11 AM

      I am having the same problem. Need to pay bills, and maybe write up my blog before I go to work. Can’t do either one (well, I AM going to go to work). Blog is definitely falling by the wayside–and I increase my admiration for Mark and others who keep up the good job. THANKS A LOT, much appreciated.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      Me three. Have to get the work done, but I am a tad distracted, and the cranky kitty on the keyboard is not helping.

      • natsfan1a - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:56 AM

        And it didn’t help that I had to wrestle the cat for my pillow all night, either. (Oops, did I type that out loud?)

      • NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        I have two kitties. One presses up against my head all night. The other one sleeps in the clothes closet. Go figure.

      • natsfan1a - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:31 AM

        Mine likes to mix it up: clothes closet, pillow, couch, etc.

        (He likes to watch the games, too.)

  6. NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    We need good Dan Haren tonight–and the bats, of course.
    We need Tanner Roark to reach back–AGAIN–for another win. And the bats, of course.

    After that, for Wednesday, it’s up to Davey and McCatty to decide if they want Stras or Ohlendorf. Right now, Ohlendorf is listed. Honestly, I think it will depend on the bullpen. If the bullpen is rested, use Ollie. If the bullpen is tired, put Stras out there and hope with the extra rest he can go eight.

  7. adcwonk - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    figuring the playoffs

    My own thoughts: forget the “E” number, magic number, even “games behind number”.

    I think the simplest way to look at it is this: we have four more losses than the Reds. So, from here on out, we need to lose four fewer losses than the Reds do. (Or, conversely, we have five fewer wins than the Reds, so we need to win five more than the Reds do).

    So, if the Reds go 0-12, Nats need to go 5-8, etc.

    Reds Nats
    0-12, 5-8
    1-11, 6-7
    2-10, 7-6
    3-9, 8-5
    4-8, 9-4
    5-7, 10-3
    6-6, 11-2
    7-5, 12-1
    8-4, 13-0
    9-3 or better, Nats can’t make it

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:57 AM

      Tough seeing the breakdown in writing. 13-0 would be nice. Order that up please with a Reds meltdown and hold the Cincinnati chili.

      • adcwonk - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:11 AM

        Yeah — it is tough. OTOH, Reds 4-8 and Nats 9-4 would not be all that different than what’s been happening lately . . .

  8. ericfuller - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    So…there’s a shooter in my dad’s building at the Navy Yard this morning. My dad is OK. I’ve read that between 1 and 3 people were shot. Not sure of many more details.

    It’s very close to Nats stadium…not sure if it has implications for tonight.

    PS – My Steal Your Nats logo will be back in due time. Apparently I can’t change my name to display as simply “Eric” using my WordPress account, so it will be different…

    • Candide - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:44 AM

      Eric –

      1) Move your mouse to the top right of the screen, hover over your username (presumably “ericfuller”) A menu with your avatar will pop up (I’m guessing it’s just a defulat avatar in your case);

      2) Click on the AVATAR;

      3) New screen comes up. Click on “Public Profile”;

      4) New screen: go to “Public Display Name” and change it to whatever you want.

      • natsfan1a - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:52 AM

        What he said. Also, I gather that avatars don’t tend to show up for those of us using computers, but they do show up on at least some smart phones.

      • Eric - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:55 AM

        Thanks Candide!

      • natsfan1a - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:55 AM

        This seems like a good time to point to the new NIDO site, and the “how-to” items in particular (updated for WordPress):

        http://prettyfrickenbueno.wordpress.com/how-to/

        (hat tip Sofa)

    • NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:44 AM

      Dear God, eric and your dad, stay safe.

      • natsfan1a - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:50 AM

        And everyone else at the Navy Yard, natch.

      • ericfuller - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:53 AM

        Thanks NatsLady.

  9. Doc - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Maybe we were better on paper than the Braves, but we didn’t prove it, as NL has so delineated.

    Somewhere there must be a closer in our system like Kimbrel. I guess that’s what HRod was supposed to be.

    Looking at the Team Stats, the hitting, now great, let us down in the pre-ASG season, and the pitching was mediocre during the post-ASG.

    Our hitting, by the way, has been good since early August. Right now we might be better than the Braves, and we’ll see what happens over the next 2 games.

  10. tcostant - Sep 16, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    I was at yesterday’s game and Ramos is absolutely raking, but another throw from the OF was misplayed. When will this guy him able to become a complete catcher and learn to catch or react to a ball from an outfielder or cutoff man???

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM

      Which play are you referring to? The one where the throw hit Dominic Brown’s leg?

    • NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:03 AM

      I was thinking that, too. Harper’s throw was right on the money. I’m sure he will work on it.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      All year you have taken any chance to get negative on Ramos and now you’re doing it in the same paragraph where you sort of said something nice.

      Did you see the stats Ramos is putting up? He has the best clutch numbers on the team and seems to thrive in Hi and Medium Lev situations when many players can’t handle the pressure. Most astute onlookers credit him for a great gameplan and if that isn’t enough, on games he has started, the Nats are on a 102 win pace.

      He’s far from perfect and most of that is from only playing in a little over 200 career starts.

      • NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:11 AM

        No one is “negative” on Ramos. No one. Pointing out he didn’t make a play he might have made (MIGHT have made) is just a fact. Relax.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:22 AM

        Nats are 42-25 in Ramos starts this year and Ramos has 11 go ahead hits. His .329 BA with RISP and .314 BA with 2 outs/RISP lead the team.

        His 162 game pace this year extrapolates to 35 HRs and 131 RBIs which would both lead the team.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:35 AM

        NatsLady, maybe I missed it. Was there more than 1 play at the plate yesterday? The only one I saw was where the throw clearly and was supported by replay hit off Dominic Brown’s leg.

    • tcostant - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:49 AM

      I guess that is it, I was a the game and had no idea it hit anyone’s leg. All I saw was a throw on line and then him runnibg after it. Regradless he needs to improve this part of the game.

  11. NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    They are saying ten victims now. I don’t see how the Nats play baseball tonight.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      You would think not. Did they catch the gunman?

      • NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:28 AM

        He is “contained” but not in custody. Conflicting reports–as usual–on the number and condition of the victims but there are apparently fatalities.

      • jd - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:38 AM

        4 Killed and 8 wounded. 3 gunmen reportedly.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        I have CNN on. It doesn’t even look like the area is safe as they are saying they haven’t located the gunman. I thought they had him pinned down.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      That’s awful.

  12. Eric - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    1, possibly 2 shooters still loose.

  13. natslifer - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    What an interesting setup for this series. As pointed out already, the elephant Mark didn’t mention in the piece is that we have Haren – Roark – Ohlendorf going. Win the series or sweep and we’re still in play, the Braves don’t clinch on our field, and I finally allow a little thinking about destiny into my brain. Lose two or three and I think it’s truly over.

  14. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Reports are changing by the minute. Some reports of multiple shooters. Latest numbers are 10 shot, 4 dead. Whole Navy Yard itself is locked down. DC is saying stay out of the area. Lots of responders having to come and go, including ambulances, so they need room.

    Apparently, Metro stop is open.

    DCA was grounded, but is flying again.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      #NavyYardShooting for those interested

  15. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    DC police are saying there is still an active shooter.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:53 AM

      by which they mean someone who isn’t dead or disarmed. Maybe someone barricaded in a room? Maybe they just aren’t certain how many shooters there are, and until they are sure, they assume there is still one there.

  16. NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    One of the reporters pointed out that about 12 noon workers report to get the Park ready for tonight’s game. Anyone know what they have been told?

    • Jw - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      Kilgore has tweeted that ballpark employees have been told to stay home. FP who lives in the ballpark hood has tweeted that his neighborhood is on lockdown.

  17. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    Fresh reports of gunfire in the building, just now

  18. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    now I am missing work for different reasons.

  19. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    Where is LJ Gibbs when he’s needed?

    I don’t believe for a minute Ramos could keep up this pace for a full season but for the first time I am confident he can be the 18 HR, 75 RBI guy that was advertised when he was acquired — and probably a bit better if he can stay healthy. So long as a catcher can hit and keep most balls from rolling to the backstop he is more valuable than a great defender who can’t hit his weight (granted, some of these mastodons are pushing 290). E.g., Piazza. In the NL, somebody in the 8 and 9 spots has to hit or else they’ll have to roll a rally-killer to the plate three-four times a game. I’ve had my doubts about Ramos’s physical conditioning in the past but the only thing I can complain about right now is watching the other runner circling the bases in real time while Ramos runs to 1st in slow motion. For all of the runs he is driving in — these are HRs with runners on base, unlike some others I could name — I can tolerate a dropped throw every once in a while.

  20. adcwonk - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    I have one word in response to the following comment:

    “we have Haren – Roark – Ohlendorf going”

    And my response:

    Yowza! (or, “gulp” — and not from drinking kook-aide!)

  21. Candide - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    Tweets in last 10-15 minutes:

    Mark: Some #Nats employees have been able to get to work this morning, some extra security measures. Too early to know if tonight’s game affected.

    Kilgore: No comment yet from Nats on tonight’s game. Employees have been told to stay home. Davey Johnson: “We’re not allowed to go to the ballpark.”

  22. Candide - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    WMAL reporting Nats Park is being used as a central location for re-uniting with missing people. Not sure what that means, but it sounds like it makes playing a game tonight less likely.

    • Candide - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      Ah – it’s for family members to re-unite with Navy Yard employees.

  23. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Nats giving parking garage B to police to reunite family members and Navy Yard employees according to CNN.

  24. NatsLady - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    David O’Brien ‏@ajcbraves 3m
    #Braves should know something about status of tonight’s game fairly soon, #Nats officials meeting with law enforcement at 11:30 a.m.

  25. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Nats players told to stay home until further notice.

  26. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    2 shooters were taken down according to CNN.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:42 AM

      How does 1 shooter become 2?

      • natsfan1a - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        I’m guessing that there is confusion at the shooting site as well as among the media. In this day of instant communications, conflicting reports may be more likely than in the past. We’ll have all the facts eventually. Until then, all we can do is hope for all affected parties to stay safe, imho.

      • Candide - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:55 AM

        Fog of war. You get all kinds of individual reports from different people, some overlapping, some conflicting. That’s the way these things always play out. You can have instant reporting or you can have accurate reporting, but you can’t have both – it just can’t happen.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 16, 2013 at 12:00 PM

        Apparently he didn’t–they are saying just one, now dead.

      • Eric - Sep 16, 2013 at 12:05 PM

        Originally they were saying three shooters, now it sounds like 2.

        My dad was WAY too close to this. Ugh.

  27. Candide - Sep 16, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    Best tweet so far: “I wish they’d hurry up and tell us who the shooter is so we can find the Facebook page of someone with a similar name and ruin their life.”

    I know, ghoulish…

  28. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 16, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    Dedicated post up now for the #NavyYardShooting discussion…

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