With their 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies today, and the Miami Marlins’ 10-8 loss to the Atlanta Braves in extras in Atlanta, GA the Washington Nationals clinched their fourth division title in the last six seasons.
Think about and enjoy that for a second...
It’s the first time the Nationals have won the NL East in consecutive seasons.
Davey Johnson in 2012, Matt Williams in 2014, and now Dusty Baker in 2016 and 2017 have taken the Nationals this far, unfortunately all three skippers have suffered NLDS losses. Will this be the year the Nats make it to the NLCS... and beyond?
GM Mike Rizzo, the architect of the organization that has produced four division titles, talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday about what made the current incarnation of the Nationals’ roster different from the previous ones.
“I think it’s the most balanced team we’ve had,” Rizzo said. “I like our offense as much or better than any team we’ve had, just because we were very reliant with home runs and the long ball with teams in the past and we struck out quite a bit, we couldn’t manufacture runs as readily as we wanted to, so I think in that regard offensively we’re better, better equipped for maybe some postseason baseball, where you can manufacture runs, we make more contact, we can steal bases a little bit more, we go first-to-third as good as anybody, so I like that aspect of it.”
“We have some playoff experience now,” Rizzo added, “and each guy brings their own little experiences to the game each and every day, and we’ve got some tried and tested playoff veterans.
“[Daniel Murphy] is obviously an extremely experienced veteran playoff player who’s excelled in the postseason and Jayson Werth and [Ryan] Madson and [Joe] Blanton, they’ve all won World Series, a lot of guys have played in the playoffs, so we’re looking forward to it.”
While the Nationals enjoyed themselves after taking the division last season, there was a bit of a muted tone to the celebration summed up by Dusty Baker, who said last year that the NL East title is just the first step on a long journey to the ultimate goal.
“I’ve been here before,” Baker said. “I wanted to celebrate tonight and then get it over with, get back to work, because this is the first step in a four-step process. We like this and we want to do this three more times and then hopefully be the World Champions.”
Things didn’t work out for the Nationals last October. Will they be different this time around? We’re about to find out...