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Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker ready for postseason play: “I know there's a championship coming.”

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Dusty Baker and Stephen Strasburg talked today about preparing for the NLDS matchup with the Chicago Cubs

MLB: NLDS-Workouts Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Dusty Baker, according to The Elias Sports Bureau, is one of seven major league managers who have made at least nine Postseason appearances. The other six: Bobby Cox (16), Joe Torre (15), Tony La Russa (14), Casey Stengel (10), John McGraw (9), and Joe McCarthy (9), are all in the Hall of Fame. Baker leads his fourth different team into the postseason tomorrow night in the nation’s capital, where the NL East champion Washington Nationals start their NLDS matchup with the Chicago Cubs.

Baker was asked this afternoon if he savored and appreciated these appearances more now than he did earlier in his career as a manager, now that he’s in his 22nd season on the bench in the majors.

“Yeah, probably so,” Baker said. “Because now I have really an appreciation of how hard it is to get there. Like, you know, in the beginning, it's ‘I'll be here every year.’ That's what I thought. That's what it felt like.

“But then after you miss it a few times, and you're like, ‘Hey, man, that was really special.’ Or like the other day, I was looking at the stats sheet, which I often do, and I saw there were only 12 teams with winning records in baseball. There are 18 teams [that didn’t have a winning record]. So getting here is very difficult, and evidently, having a winning record is very difficult if over half the teams have losing records.

MLB: NLDS-Workouts Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“So whoever had the winning record or whoever is here, needs to savor the whole deal because, I mean, it's a long year and a long race.”

With all of his postseason experience, as a player and manager, has he learned anything about the difference between regular season and postseason games, and what it takes to win in postseason play.

“You have to get good pitching,” Baker said. “You have to play good defense. You've got to have timely hitting. The same thing that you do, you know, during the season. It's just that everything is more critical. I mean, you could see where Robbie Ray was in a game last night that he wouldn't have ordinarily been in during the season. You see where [David] Robertson was in the game earlier and went two or three innings.

“You try to be cognizant of tomorrow, but you're more aware of today, especially depending on where you are in the series.

“You know, every game is vital. You never -- I watched the game last night, and during the regular season, [Zack] Greinke on the mound, you might have turned it off. Next thing you know, Greinke is giving up a bunch of runs. I've never seen Greinke like that.

“But that shows you the need and the desire that people have when you're under pressure, you know, to be eliminated and go home.”

Stephen Strasburg, who will start Game 1 of the NLDS with the Cubs tomorrow night, was asked how he would try to handle the pressure and channel his energy to avoid a short outing like what we’ve seen from a few starters already in the postseason. He told reporters that it’s not really pressure at all.

“I think people look at pressure in many different ways,” Strasburg said, “but you know, it's funny, because you know, this isn't pressure. This is a game. You know, there's a lot of people that deal with a lot harsher things in their life that is legitimate pressure.

“I'm just so thankful and blessed to be playing this game, to have the family that I have, and to have the teammates that I have. That's really all that matters. We stick together and we give it everything we've got.”

Baker was asked if he had any advice for his starter for how Strasburg could avoid the sort of rough start and short outing we’ve seen from three of the four starts so far in the postseason.

“I don’t know what [Pitching Coach] Mike [Maddux] is going to say. I’d let him say what he’s always said. He’s good. I don’t say anything to the pitchers about that, plus that’s kind of a negative statement that you put in a person’s mind, you know.

“ I try not to put any negative statements in, because there’s enough — we’re bombarded by negatives every day and all day, so that’s just like going to the mound and telling the pitcher, ‘Don’t walk this guy,’ and invariably he’ll walk him.

“So you don’t put any negative thoughts in your pitcher’s head.”

And what would winning a World Series mean to Baker, who has one ring from his time with the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers as a player, but hasn’t yet won one as a manager?

“It would mean that, like I said, there's not much I've missed in life, period,” Baker told reporters.

“Like I said, missed being big man on college campus because I signed out of high school, and loving grandparents because they died before I was born; and then, I know there's a championship coming. I know it's already written. All you've got to do is believe it and then act it.

“The way I look at it -- hey, I always told you, if I win one, I'll win two. That's how I look at it.”