If they won this afternoon, (which they did, 5-1 over the Phillies), the Washington Nationals would guarantee that they had the best record in baseball after 162 games. Or they would be tied with the Reds at least, if Cincinnati beats St. Louis in their last game of the season tonight. But the Nats would be the no.1 team in the National League as a result of beating the NL Central Division champs in five of seven games this year as long as the wrapped up their regular season schedule with a win over the Phillies. Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters before the regular season finale this afternoon that he wasn't too concerned about finishing with the best record, explaining that he didn't understand, "... how it's that important."
"You've got to beat the teams you play," the Nationals' 69-year-old skipper said, "The only nice thing 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 kind of year we've had, it would be fitting to finish it off with the best record."
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo, on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Mike Rizzo Show with Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier, said that he wanted the win in the final game of the year for a fairly simple reason. "I want to have the best record just to have the best record," the Nats' general manager said, "The home field advantage is good, [but] to me it doesn't matter who we play. They're all tough teams and we've played well against all of them and that type of thing. I don't see any great advantage of disadvantage there. But I'd like to have the best record just because that means you're the best team in the regular season at least."
As for the Nats' potential competition in the NLDS, the Nats win this afternoon in Nationals Park guaranteed that they would face the winner of the one-game NL Wild Card matchup which will be played at 5:00 pm EDT on Friday afternoon. As the no.1 team in the NL, the Nationals now know that they'll be facing the winner of the matchup between the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals for the first game of the five game series on Sunday. Even before they knew for sure who they would be facing, however, the Nationals' manager told reporters that it was a whole new season in the playoffs and the fact that they had winning records this season against all prospective postseason opponents (10-8 vs ATL; 5-2 vs CIN; 5-1 vs SF; 4-3 vs St.L) really meant very little.
"It's nice when we know we can handle them," Johnson said, "But you throw all that out the window."
The Nationals' GM did say that it is a little disconcerting not knowing where the Nationals will be playing the first postseason game for a team based in D.C. since 1933 until after the Braves and Cardinals play the Wild Card Game on Friday. "We're going to be watching a game Friday night packed up and not knowing where we're going," Rizzo said. "We're going to be sitting Friday night not knowing where we're going to fly to, bags packed and ready to roll. And almost as important is [that] we don't know exactly who to prepare for until hours before the first pitch of our first playoff game."
The Nationals will be prepared for anything, however.
"We've got our armies of advanced scouts out there," Rizzo explained, "And they've been on these teams for a while now. We're going to continue the process and start sending our advanced scouts to the American League teams and we use teams of two to cover each team and we'll have to make decisions in a [relatively] quick manner but as we say, there's no whining there's no complaining. The other team is in the same position. And let's tee it up and get after it."
It's all a new experience for the Nationals.
The Nationals' manager isn't worried about the fact that many players on his team will be making their first postseason appearances when they do play on Sunday against either the Braves or Cardinals, telling reporters, "You gain your experience by playing 162 games and winning those games or winning most series. That's how you gain your experience. We treat every game as a big game. Now, we have some more games. You don't prepare any different than you prepare for any of the ones April 3rd."
"The beauty of it is," the Nats' skipper continued, "You've played alongside each other all year long and you know what everybody's capable of doing and you feed on the energy of knowing the guy behind me is pretty good, so you don't need to have a whole lot of guys with postseason experience. And I've got a ton of it and it's always been the same way whether I had a young club or a veteran club or whatever."
After 162 games of preparation for what comes next, the Nats' manager told reporters that he thinks his team is ready. The win over Philadelphia on Wednesday guaranteed the no.1 overall record in baseball. "We've had it most of the year, it seems like," Johnson said, referring to the best record in the majors, "So it's good we held onto it. It's a nice thing." But it means little after today. The second season starts Sunday for the Nationals.
• Johnson Health Issue:
While the Nationals were busy locking up the no.1 spot in the league this afternoon with their 5-1 win over the Phillies, their manager had a slight health scare as he told reporters after the game. Johnson left the dugout in the seventh inning with what he told reporters was numbness in his leg.
"I'm okay," Johnson started the postgame press conference. "There's nothing wrong with me. Just about the third inning the game, I started losing all the feeling in my left leg. Just numb. And I took a muscle relaxer at the time and a heavy dose of aspiring and about the seventh inning, it didn't let up so I just said I don't want to miss a step going up and do a header like Gio or somebody... So I got to see [team doctor Dr. Wiemi Douoguih] I think in the seventh inning and he did five x-rays."
"I have just a normal narrowing between the L3 and L4," Johnson said, "I knew it wasn't like sciatica that you can get numbness from the discs down in the L5-S1, and the nerves coming through the eyelets. I knew it wasn't that because I don't have any eyelets. They did decompression about 10 years ago. But it's nothing more than they can give me an injection in that area, but before we do that I'm on a heavy dose, dose pack to knock out the inflammation and swelling. So..."
Johnson said he still hadn't gotten feeling back in his leg after the game, but he decided to leave the bench early to avoid a possible fall. "I just didn't want to embarrass myself if my leg gave out," Johnson said. Asked if the medication could affect his travel plans this weekend, Johnson laughed and said, "I hope not." The doctor told him by tomorrow morning it should be better. "I'll be fine."
• Listen to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Mike Rizzo Show With Holden Kushner And Danny Rouhier: