Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters before Wednesday's regular season finale with the Philadelphia Phillies that more than winning and securing the best record in baseball, his concern in Game 162 of 162 was making sure Edwin Jackson got his 10th win to become the fifth pitcher in the Nats' rotation to reach double-digits in Ws. As far as determining where the Nats would begin the first postseason game by a D.C.-based team since 1933, the Nats' 69-year-old manager said he wasn't too concerned with which team they ended up playing in the NLDS.
"I don't how it's that important," Johnson said, "You've got to beat the teams you play." The one consideration, however, was that if Washington could win they could guarantee that they wouldn't have to make a long flight to San Francisco to start the postseason. "The only nice thing," about finishing first, he explained, "... is we don't have to fly across country. That's the only nice thing. The pitching is set up for whoever we play."
The Nationals beat the Phillies and ended the year with the best record in baseball. Even if they'd lost they would have finished the no.1 seed since they held the tiebreaker over the Cincinnati Reds, who lost their final game of the year to the St. Louis Cardinals late Wednesday night. Hours earlier, Washington had finished off Philadelphia, tying their NL East rivals in the season series and securing home field advantage throughout the postseason.
"Great outing," the Nats' skipper said, referring to the 29-year-old right-hander's 6.2 innings of work on the mound in which he allowed just six hits and one run, "Good win. Don't have to make a five-hour plane trip. That's great. Now I guess we won't know until about eleven o'clock where we're going on Friday." MLB hadn't yet announced that the Braves and Cardinals would play the one-game Wild Card matchup at 5:07 pm EDT on Friday, so the Nationals will know where they're going a little earlier than Johnson thought at the time, but knowing they'd be departing for either Atlanta or St. Louis on Sunday, the Nationals manager laid out the plans for the next few days.
"What we're going to do since we know that we're going to be playing Sunday," Johnson said, "We'll have a workout here Friday and then we'll leave early Saturday for where we're going." As for who will being going with them, the Nationals' manager wasn't handing out many clues as to the makeup of the roster for the NLDS. In his appearance on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s the Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning, Johnson said that the team had until 24 hours before the game to submit the 25-man roster. "You've got to know who we're playing," Johnson explained. He and D.C. GM Mike Rizzo will meet once they know which team they're facing and decide on the roster.
Over the last few days, however, Johnson did talk up a few players. Roger Bernadina showed off his speed on Tuesday night, helping to add a run late in what was then a 3-2 game in the bottom of the eighth, getting hit by a pitch before he worked his way around to third, tagged and scored on a fly to fairly shallow center field by Steve Lombardozzi. "Speed is helpful a lot of times," Johnson said, "It's a weapon. Defenses come in when he's up. He's had a good year and he's probably our most proficient base stealer... even though he got picked off tonight."
The Shark finished his fifth MLB season with a .291/.372/.405 line with 11 doubles, five home runs and 15 stolen bases in 18 attempts. Johnson also pointed to two members of the Nationals' bullpen who've impressed him since they were called up for September. "The two guys that have really jumped out at me are [Zach] Duke and [Christian] Garcia," Johnson said. Garcia's posted a 2.13 ERA, a 3.73 FIP, two walks (1.42 BB/9) and 15 Ks (10.66 K/9) in 12.2 IP. Duke, who was (15-5) with a 3.51 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 39 walks (2.14 BB/9) and 91 Ks (4.98 K/9) in 26 games and 164.1 IP, is (1-0) with a 1.32 ERA, 2.51 FIP, four walks and 10 Ks in 13.2 IP with Washington.
"I've had some discussions about the [postseason roster], and I'll have more," the manager said. Even with all the left-handers on the roster, Johnson said he would still consider keeping Duke around against a team like Atlanta that's struggled to hit left-handed pitching (.244/.315/.374 vs LHP). "Although I've got [Michael] Gonzalez, [Sean] Burnett you know... so... I'll make the decisions soon then you'll know what we're doing."