After taking three games of the four-game set from the New York Mets in Citi Field, the Washington Nationals are 8-5 so far in September, 27-15 in the last two months and 34-21 in the second half of the 2014 campaign with just fourteen games remaining on the regular season schedule.
The Nats' magic number is down to four. Their lead in the division is up to 10.5 games.
Is the Nationals' first-year skipper Matt Williams, who has stressed all season that all that matters is the next day's game finally entertaining thoughts of clinching the division and bringing postseason baseball back to the nation's capital for the second time in three seasons? Has he given it any thought?
"No. None. Absolutely none," Williams told reporters on Sunday.
"We need to play good tomorrow if we want to get to where we want to get to, so we're going to a place [Atlanta's Turner Field] that the Braves have played well at so we'll have to do things right."
Is it important to Williams that the Nationals are playing their best baseball as the regular season winds down?
"I don't know how significant that is," he said. "We're just trying to get to where we want to get to. So in that regard, our pitching has been good. Offense has been good. We've kicked it a little bit lately, more than we would like to, so in that regard it hasn't been as good as we'd like, but we've been able to overcome that, so that's a good sign."
Jordan Zimmermann led the Nationals to their 85th win with 6 ⅔ scoreless against the Mets yesterday. He was asked afterwards if he and his teammates were excited to have the magic number down to five at that point, before it fell to four with the Braves' third-straight loss to the Texas Rangers on the road in Arlington, TX.
"It will be a lot better when the magic number is zero," Zimmermann said. "But we're in good shape going down to Atlanta and still take it one game at a time, and hopefully we can celebrate down there."
Zimmmermann, the Nats' 28-year-old right-hander, who improved to (6-0) in 11 second-half starts with the win in New York, was asked what it would mean if they could clinch a postseason berth on the road in Turner Field?
"I mean, as long as we do it I don't care where it is to be honest with you," Zimmermann said, "but it would be that much more special if we did it down there so hopefully we win two out of three and see what happens."
In 71 ⅔ IP since the All-Star Break, and the bicep strain he suffered in his final first-half outing, Zimmermann has put up a 2.51 ERA, a 2.80 FIP and a .231/.263/.368 line against, picking it up as the regular season winds down.
"That's what you want to do," Zimmermann said of his own and his teammates play as of late.
"Towards the end of the year you want to be playing your best baseball and I feel we're doing that and hopefully it continues and take it into Atlanta and Miami."
The Nationals are, however, 6-10 against the Braves on the year with a 1-5 record so far in Turner Field in 2014...
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