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Nats beat Marlins to clinch winning season, want more

Sep 20, 2013, 1:25 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

The 2013 season for the Washington Nationals is on track to end without a trip to the postseason, as the playoffs are a longshot with nine games left and a five-game deficit to overcome.

But with Thursday’s 3-2 victory over the Marlins, the Nats took home win No. 82 and ensured they will at the very least finish with a winning season. It’s already the second best year the franchise has enjoyed since moving to Washington, D.C. and it’s not over yet.

Any other year and their 82nd win would mark a milestone, it would demonstrate the positive direction this organization is heading in, players would be happy with what they’ve accomplished.

Not this club. Not this year.

“I think moving in the right direction is something that we’ve all kind of looked past,” Ian Desmond said.

“I think at the end of the year last year when I went home and reflected on the season I think it didn’t really even matter how many games we won. We came in whatever place it was, fifth or sixth and if you don’t win the World Series, you’re really not doing what you signed up to do.”

The Nats recovered from a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Braves the night before to return to the win column in this first of a four-game series. They still haven’t lost consecutive games in the month of September with a 13-4 overall record.

Gio Gonzalez pitched a day earlier than expected due to Stephen Strasburg’s forearm tightness, and gave the Nats six innings with seven hits and two runs allowed. He fared well despite the short notice.

“I found out that information the night before,’ he said. “I was just grateful enough I didn’t go throw a bullpen and I stayed healthy and strong enough to pitch a regular game.”

Gonzalez gave up a run before recording an out in the top of the first and threw 62 pitches through three innings before settling in. He needed just eight pitches in the fourth and 11 in the fifth, allowing him to go six and earn the win on his 28th birthday.

“It’s always nice to get a win on your birthday. It’s almost like a gift to yourself,” he said.

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  1. David Proctor - Sep 20, 2013 at 5:58 AM

    There were some really great quotes in Amanda Comak’s article from Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond on Bryce. You can really tell how close Bryce and Jayson are. Kilgore’s article too. Both are worth a read.

    Werth means so much to this team, on the field and off it. We talk about it all the time, but it’s just so true. Werth might end up being the single greatest influence on Harper’s career.

    There were also two great photos of them.

    One: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BUkEnoyCAAA5EnZ.png:large

    Two: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BUkxHnbCMAA9jcj.jpg:large

    He actually made that second one his twitter photo.

  2. Baseballswami - Sep 20, 2013 at 6:36 AM

    This might not be what we all wanted, but there were many, many days during the season when I worried we would finish under .500 or in less than second place. This steady push has been better than staying where they were earlier. I hope they keep it up until the last game, finish with a respectable record and go into the offseason with a plan.

  3. sjm308 - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    Mr. Proctor – I rarely post anymore but I wanted to thank you for that article by Amanda. Just another reason why I feel newspapers are still an important piece of sports. I am not even sure that was in the print edition since I get only the Post but that was a good read and like most of Mark’s stuff, well written (no offense to Chase).

    • natsfan1a - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:42 AM

      Good to “see” you here, sjm. :-)

  4. nats128 - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    I was there last night and thought Davey could have played the game more conservative. Here he has a oversized bullpen and still refuses to go situational most times choosing to go inning by inning once the 7th inning starts. It worked last night however early in the season it rarely did.

    Soriano didnt have it and Davey wasnt going to pull him.

    When Storen was struggling the fear was Redmond could bring in a lefty or things could unravel and Storen could face Stanton. Redmond luckily didnt pinch hit for anyone and the first lefty Storen faced was Yellich and he got him. Davey didnt have a lefty up at the time. Earlier in the season that was going to be a hit.

    The Nats scored there 3 runs in the 1st innings and didnt get any addon runs. Very typical of the old Nats and on this night those 3 runs held up.

    Lucky.

  5. MicheleS - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    All around good win last night. Happy for Gio, wish Span had been able to get a hit, but I think the standing O he got last night shows how the fan base appreciates him. Now I just wish Mr Soriano didn’t have me reaching for the Maalox. we MAY only have 9 left, but I am going to enjoy every last one of these games.

  6. nats128 - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:55 AM

    The outcome this weekend in the Pirates/Reds series is that 1 of those teams has to lose 3 or 2 games since its a 3 game series.

    If the Nats sweep this weekend they are guaranteed to pick up at least 2 games against either the Reds or Pirates.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:13 AM

      If the reds go 2-1, that does not help us much but gain 1 game on them and pirates will have same record as reds at the end of the series. a sweep by nats and pirates can make things interesting for last six games.

      • nats128 - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:21 AM

        Faraz, you are correct. The best outcome is that Nats sweep Fish and Pirates sweep Reds. Best outcome is if Pirates win remaining 6 games against the Reds.

        If Nats do there job and keep winning they are guaranteed to pick up ground against either the Reds or Pirates or both.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:26 AM

        yeah but it will be very difficult for Pirates to sweep reds because a) 7-6 record so far against them and b) they are 6-4 in their last ten games I believe (so are the reds).

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:05 AM

        The Nats need to do their part which is win out and then hope for total domination by the Pirates in their 6 games with the Reds.

        I know, one game at a time. Yah yah yah.

  7. Joe Seamhead - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    This season is winding down, whether we make the playoffs, or not. That said, it seems like it was only a short time ago that Bryce started the season with his two homer opening day game. How come the “endless” season goes by so quickly, but the off season seems eternal?

    • nats128 - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:23 AM

      Hoping the offseason doesnt start until the World Series is over

  8. sunshinebobby - Sep 20, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    I’m with you, 128. Just not ready to let go yet. LET’S GO BUCS!!

    • NatsLady - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:14 AM

      Me, too. Just ordered my playoff strip. They must have a few calls, because the agent was quick and efficient. (The online screens are just AWFUL, kept dumping me back into “account information.”)

      • Jw - Sep 20, 2013 at 11:08 AM

        Operator is standing by. Did you get his/her name?

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    Interesting numbers since Schu has taken over.

    Nats are 34-21 and have averaged just over 4.70 runs per game which was my preseason number for supremacy. Team OPS is .775 compared to .683 for Eckstein.

    Since Span and Zimmerman have ascended to their mean, this team offensively has only 2 weak spots and that is LaRoche and the bench.

    Rizzo has made many telling quotes here recently about trade bait and his newfound pitching surplus. A lot to ponder but fun to watch this improved offense. I have found myself with little to analyze on what is wrong with the offense as it is now better than any team in MLB. Imagine that, but also consider a few upgrades and nit settling.

    • laddieblahblah - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      I do not have an insight into how Schu did it, but I do not believe in coincidences. The Nats are more disciplined and selective at the plate, are making more frequent and more solid contact, and are are better at situational hitting under Schu. Wish Rizzo had forced the change earlier – at least a month earlier. We likely would be looking at much more favorable possibilities, now, than what the Nats face.

      “Rizzo has made many telling quotes here recently about trade bait and his newfound pitching surplus.”

      He has a wealth of relatively unknown young talent down there, as we have just seen with Roark and Taylor Jordan. Young Mr. Voth, just drafted this year, has really been impressive.

      I am still puzzled at how Rizzo and his army of scouts missed Mike Trout (and the Phillies, too, right next door to South Jersey), but LA knew about him. Seems to be a Nats scouting vacuum in that part of the country.

  10. sjm308 - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    What has captured my attention now is that elimination number. I believe it is five. If the Reds win two of the next three that would move it down to 3 no matter what we do. Three with 7 games left really makes things difficult but still gives you a small particle of hope. No matter what the number, I just want to see us keep playing error free ball, pitching well and showing the hustle on the basepaths that never gets mentioned. I could easily go to a stats page but will ask here. Does Desmond have that 20th stolen base yet. There just can’t be that many SS with 20/20 seasons like he has produced.

    My last game is Saturday and while that is always a kinda sad thing, it will still be fun and the big bonus on this game is that Kieran at the age of 9 months will be headed to his first game!

    Go Nats

    • NatsLady - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:37 AM

      The saddest thing for me is putting away all my Nats jerseys and hats… They go in big plastic bags in the closet until spring training. I’ll keep a jacket out for cool weather…

    • Eric - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      Desi is still looking for his 20th stolen base. Just one left to go. IIRC, he would be only the 4th SS all time to pull it off in back to back seasons. I have to think he’ll manage one more over the course of 9 games…

  11. jd - Sep 20, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    sjm,

    If the Reds win 2 of 3 they will cit their magic number to 3 as you say and then they will entertain the NY Mets for 3 at home. On the other hand the Pirates will play the Cubs for 3. If one of the Reds or Pirates does not dominate the other there is very little room for hope.

    Stranger things have happened but it’s not lining up real well for us.

  12. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 20, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    Somebody check my arithmetic, but if I’m right, IFF the Nats win out, they finish at 91-71, and are a lock to make the wild card, mathematically–they have to catch one of Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.

    IF Nats win out = 91-71.

    “No better than” assumes they sweep their other series with the Cubs and Mets, respectively.

    IF Pitts. wins out = 97-65, first WC, and the Reds can do no better than 90-72. Nats are WC2

    IF Cin. wins out = 96-66, and Pitts. can do no better than 91-71, tied with the Nats. I’m not sure what the tiebreaker is for this–do they play for it?

    IF Cin. and Pitts. split their six games, Pitts. can finish no better than 91-71, Nats tie for 1st WC (I’m pretty sure they use a tiebreaker for this, but I’m not sure who would win it), and Cin. can finish no better than 90-72, out of the playoffs.

    So there’s a chance. Every game the Nats lose is one they need help on from BOTH the Cubs and Mets.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 20, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      Oh wait. Duh. I forgot St. Louis. These scenarios require St. Louis to lose more than just the 3 games against the Nats.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 20, 2013 at 11:51 AM

        Actually, it doesn’t change that much.

        Revised:
        IF Nats win out = 91-71.

        “No better than” assumes they sweep their other series with the Cubs and Mets, respectively.
        St. Louis cannot exceed 95-67 if the Nats win out. Assume they do that for this purpose, since if they lose more, it only helps the Nats in these scenarios.

        IF Pitts. wins out = 97-65, first place, St. Lous is WC1, and the Reds can do no better than 90-72. Nats are WC2

        IF Cin. wins out = 96-66, first place, St. Louis is WC1, and Pitts. can do no better than 91-71, tied with the Nats. I’m not sure what the tiebreaker is for this–do they play for it?

        IF Cin. and Pitts. split their six games, St. Loiis wins the Central Div., Pitts. can finish no better than 91-71, Nats tie for 1st WC (I’m pretty sure they use a tiebreaker for this, but I’m not sure who would win it), and Cin. can finish no better than 90-72, out of the playoffs.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:25 PM

        No, that’s still wrong. Nevermind me.

        Not that you don’t already.

      • jd - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:31 PM

        I think your Math is wrong. Pit is at 88 wins now. If they split with the Reds they would be at 91 wins + if they sweep the Cubs they will be at 94 wins – Nats can’t get there. Cinci is at 87 wins so a split with Pitt gets them to 90 and a sweep of the Mets gets them to 93 – Nats can’t get there.

        If Pitt sweeps Cinci then you are right the Reds can only get ti 90 and if the Reds sweep the Pirates can only get to 91.

        So really what we need badly is domination of one team or another preferably the Pirates over the Reds and/or any help from the Mets and/or Cubs + a 9-0 finish for the Nats.

        I don’t know what the mathematical odds are but they ain’t high so to say that the Nats are a lock for a WC if they win out is untrue in every sense.

      • jd - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:34 PM

        ESPN has the Nats playoff odds at 1.5% which is better than winning on a lottery ticket but then again there is always a lineup of people buying lottery tickets so there is that.

  13. Section 222 - Sep 20, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Not shaping up real well is an understatement. I’ll be happy if we still have a mathematical chance on Sunday for our last home game.

    So the Nats are apparently the third MLB team this year to have five guys with 20 HRs or more. Did Bob and FP comment on that last night.? Feel’s brother Phil thought we might be the only one. But no, the Braves (Freeman, Uggla, JUpton, McCann, and Gattis) and the Rays (Encarnation, Bautista, Rasmus, Lind, Arencibia) already got there.

    I guess it shows that balanced power is no guarantee of a playoff berth.

    • Eric - Sep 20, 2013 at 11:53 AM

      Yes, I believe Bob and FP did mention that last night, 222…either them or Knight and the guy filling in for Holliday (forget his name).

      • Section 222 - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Byron Kerr. We don’t see enough of him as far as I’m concerned. Follows the farm teams closely, has a much less annoying manner than Johnny. Used to do the postgame radio show sometimes and was much better than Feel’s brother Phil too in my opinion.

      • natsfan1a - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        Yes, Bob and FP mentioned it.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:38 PM

      Me, too, on Sunday’s game. We *should* still have a chance then with the magic number at 5 now, right? (Disclaimer: A math major I am not.)

      • natsfan1a - Sep 20, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        Or would that be the tragic number? Um, the elimination number. There, I fixed it. Now, what’s for lunch?

  14. jmnatsfan - Sep 20, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    Who doesn’t want more?! But winning the world series is not the test of a successful season. When this team plays hard and plays well, progress is made with the franchise and the fan base. I LOVE THIS TEAM. Happy Birthday Desi and Lombo!

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