clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Washington Nationals clinch 2017 NL East title, head back to postseason: “Get your popcorn ready.”

New, 2 comments

Washington Nationals clinch the NL East, look forward to October and their fourth trip to the postseason in six years...

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Jayson Werth had what was, perhaps, the best line of the Washington Nationals’ post-clinch celebration on Sunday when he talked to MASN’s Dan Kolko about the fact that he has now been a part of four division winners over the course of the 7-year/$126M deal he signed in the winter of 2011.

“If I had told you then that you would make the postseason four times over the course of your contract how would you have reacted?” Kolko asked.

“I think if you would have told me that you would have been an idiot like everybody else, but here we are nonetheless,” Werth said.

“I don’t know,” the 38-year-old outfielder added, “I kind of look like a genius.”

“I picked this team over a lot of other teams because I believed in the vision Mike Rizzo and the Lerners set out and here we are seven years later, four divisions, had a chance at maybe one or two more, but I think it’s been successful to this point.

“Obviously I came here to win a World Series, so, still got that chance, and we’ve still got a lot of games to play and hopefully this is just the first of many celebrations.”

Max Scherzer, who signed a 7-year/$210M deal with the Nationals in January of 2015, has helped lead Washington to two division titles in his three years in D.C.

He gave a speech to his teammates before corks were popped in the clubhouse this afternoon when the Nats learned they’d officially clinched.

His message?

“We came out, this was our goal in February, is that we wanted to win the NL East,” Scherzer said. “You look at the format, you want to be one of the division winners.

“All the hard work that we put in over the years, all the injuries we fought through, we made it, here we are. And basically, ‘Here we are: Welcome to the postseason.’”

One of the most satisfying aspects of this division title for fans in the nation’s capital, has been Ryan Zimmerman’s participation, and his contributions.

A big question after a seriously down year in 2016, which followed a few injury-filled campaigns, the Nationals’ first draft pick back in 2005 has bounced back in a big way thus far in 2017.

He’s fallen off some from his ridiculously hot start to the season, but more important than his splits is the fact that he’s stayed on the field and been a consistent presence throughout the first five-plus months.

“It’s been way better than the last two or three years,” Zimmerman said in an on-field interview during Sunday’s celebration.

“Being hurt is frustrating, and nobody wants to be hurt, but to be able to be out here pretty much every game and compete like I used to, that’s made this year special.”

The depth in the organization that has allowed the Nationals to deal with all of their injuries and get to where they did today was a big theme in the interviews after the 2017 NL East title was decided.

“It just goes to show how good we are,” Bryce Harper said, “how good our team is and how good our organization is.”

“Having the organization that we do have, and the players that we do,” he added, “the veteran guys, the young guys, the young guys coming up this year and doing their job when guys get hurt, it’s just been unbelievable, I mean, having the faith that we do in Mike Rizzo, Dusty Baker, the Lerners, everybody.”

“People might think it was easy because we had a pretty good lead,” Dusty Baker said, “... but man, we were pulling stops, we were getting players from elsewhere, we were trying to keep the puzzle together. We lost all our outfield, then we lost Max, and then we lost [Stephen Strasburg], and then I was like, ‘Oh, no, who are we going to [lose next]?’

“We lost Enny [Romero], the list goes on and on, and we lost Trea [Turner], we lost J-Werth, and just trying to figure out how to keep this together, but I’ve got to give these guys the credit, because these guys never alibied, they never had any excuses, and hey man, they just pulled on that rope the whole time, and just stayed after it.

“And I know they’re tired, especially in this 20 days in a row, but I never heard any alibis, and that’s the thing that I love, and they like each other and they love each other, and they play well together.”

“It’s a special group of guys,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got guys in the peak of their careers, we’ve got impact players that are playing to the apex of their ability-level, we’ve got guys that know what they’re doing on the field and how to win.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that have won games before,” the GM said, “and you package that with the speed and exuberance of these rookies playing at 100 mph with their hair on fire, it’s a good combination.”

Scherzer said it’s one of the best teams he’s been a part of, and he thinks “... that the lottery ticket we’ve got going into the postseason this year is as good as I’ve ever had.”

What sets this version of the Nationals apart?

“You look at the talent,” Scherzer explained, “... you look at the guys, you look at the pieces, we have veteran players, young players, we have every piece of this puzzle that we need, and since my time here, this is my third season, this is the best team that we’ve had yet.”

His advice for his younger teammates going into the postseason for the first time?

“Get your popcorn ready,” Scherzer said. “There’s nothing like it.”