With their sweep of the three-game set against the Miami Marlins this week in the nation’s capital, Washington’s Nationals opened up a 15.0-game lead in the NL East.
Dusty Baker talked after the series finale with the Fish about the importance of the dominant showing against the division’s second place team, who came to D.C. hot.
“We played a very good series against these guys because they were trying to catch us and get back in the Wild Card,” Baker said, “... and now we go on the road, we had a 5-2 homestand which is a good homestand especially after we had split the first series.
Washington and New York split their four-game set, then the Nationals took three in a row from Miami, leaving Baker’s Nats with a 40-27 record at home this season, good for the fifth best home record in the majors and the second-best home mark in the NL.
On the road, Washington’s 41-24 record is the second-best in the majors, behind only the Houston Astros (42-22).
They start a four-game series with the Brewers in Miller Park tonight.
Milwaukee is in second place in the NL Central, 3.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs, and the Brewers are 3.0 games out in the race for the second Wild Card spot in the NL.
Before the finale with the Marlins on Wednesday, Baker talked to reporters about how he’s approaching the rest of the schedule with the lead the Nationals have built up.
“I’ve been on team that clinched early and turned it off and had to turn it back on and I’ve been on teams that have had to play till the very end and were tired,” Baker said.
“But they were sharper and had that adrenaline going. So, one of the advantages of clinching early, you can set your pitching. That’s the No. 1 advantage, but there’s pros and cons on each one. I’d rather clinch it early and have to figure out how to keep them sharp than I would go all the way to the end. But like I said, I’ve been on both sides of the coin as a player and a manager.”
While he decides how to rest his players while keeping them sharp, and considers a six-man rotation down the stretch to keep all of his starters fresh, Baker said he watches the various races around the majors and keeping an eye on the standings as he always does.
“I look at who’s behind us, I look at who’s in the Wild Card,” Baker explained. “I look at — like in the Western Division. I’ve been there where you’ve got an ‘x’ by your name and so we’re trying to put some x’s on some people, which means that they’re eliminated, and then you try to eliminate them one at a time. We know these guys [Miami] are in the Wild Card hunt, we’re trying to eliminate them too, because they could be a Wild Card team that’s very dangerous with that offense that they have over there. I watch the standings every day from the very beginning. I don’t religiously study them, but I pretty much know who’s in last in every division, who’s in first, and kind of who’s in the middle who’s in the Wild Card race. Yeah, I watch the standings.”
Baker and the Nationals know they can now impact the race in the NL Central over the next four days as they inch closer to claiming their fourth NL East title over the last six seasons.