Part of me feels like I’m dreaming –the Washington Nationals are the National League East champions? Really? Finally! But the other part of me is a little skeptical, since the Nationals did, after all, lose to the Phillies 2-0 on Monday night. The competitive side of me thought it seemed a bit strange that everyone was celebrating despite being shut out. But nonetheless, this is the first time the Nationals have won a division title since moving to D.C. after the 2004 season. Yes, I guess that’s reason enough to celebrate!
It helped that the Braves, who were in second place and three games behind entering Monday, were edged by the Pirates, 2-1, in Pittsburgh. The Nationals learned they’d won the NL East at approximately 10 p.m. ET, as they were batting in the bottom of the ninth inning, when it was announced at Nationals Park that the Braves had lost. While the fans cheered, the entire team exchanged hugs in the dugout. In fact, I think those of us watching on TV or following the Braves-Pirates game on the Internet knew about it a few seconds before the players did!
At that point, Michael Morse, Ian Desmond, and Danny Espinosa went up to bat in the bottom of the ninth, though none of them did anything productive. I think they just wanted to get the game over with, though competitive me was still hoping they would score a run to prevent the shutout.
The Nationals got just four hits in seven innings against right-hander Kyle Kendrick. Their best chances to score came in the second, fifth and sixth innings. In the second, the Nationals had the bases loaded with two outs, but left-hander John Lannan grounded out to end the inning (one of those times when the intentional walk actually worked).
Three innings later, Kurt Suzuki singled to center field with one out and advanced to third base when Kendrick threw the ball past first baseman Ty Wigginton on a pickoff attempt. But Suzuki wasn’t able to score, because pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina flied out to center fielder John Mayberry Jr. and Werth struck out looking.
“Hustlin’ Harper” led off the sixth inning with a double. Three batters later, Harper was on third base when Michael Morse came to the plate, but Morse struck out looking to end the threat. Sigh!
Lannan pitched just OK, allowing just two runs on six hits in five innings. After Lannan was pulled, Craig Stammen dominated, striking out six batters in two innings before making way for Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen, who blanked the Phillies the rest of the way.
The team celebrated in the clubhouse for about 30 minutes and then went back to the field to acknowledge the fans, who were addressed by General Manager, Mike Rizzo, Ryan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez (who was the first one out on the field after the clubhouse celebration), and Bryce Harper. So I guess despite being shut out, the Nationals had a long-awaited and well-deserved celebration.
So what’s next? We actually don’t know yet, since the Wild Card has to be decided between the Braves and Cardinals. I’m hoping the Reds end up with a better season record than the Nationals, so the Nats can play the Giants and the Reds can go to either Atlanta or St. Louis. There is still a LOT of baseball to be played, so the next 3 weeks should be plenty exciting!
(Now if the Orioles and Yankees could finally figure out which team is going to lead the AL East, then I could write out a nice little chart outlining which team will be playing against which other team.)
About the Author
Written by Marien Hornyak
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico but have lived in the continental US for 22 years. I have a BS in Athletic Training and a MEd in Sport Management, where I did my thesis on "The History of Baseball Litigation." I am a wife, mother of 2, and self-proclaimed "Baseball Nerd." My favorite baseball players include Roberto Clemente, Kirby Puckett, and Iván Rodriguez.