Is ending up in a win-or-go-home Wild Card Game fair at the end of a 93-win 2019 season?
Davey Martinez was asked that question after the Washington Nationals won their eighth in a row on Sunday afternoon, to wrap up a 93-69 regular season after they’d guaranteed that they’d at least get to play at home against the Milwaukee Brewers tonight with Saturday’s win in the nation’s capital.
“I don’t really have an opinion,” Martinez said. “It is what it is. It’s baseball, the fact that we’re one of the teams that gets a chance to play on, it feels really good, and really gratifying.”
“Play better during the season, win the division,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters on the field in Nationals Park during Monday’s workouts.
“That’s the way I think of it,” the Nationals’ General Manager added. “You’re rewarded for winning the division. It’s a tougher road certainly to go into the playoff scenario as a Wild Card, but I think that’s as planned. It gives you real reason to win the division. We’ve won four divisions and haven’t won the World Series in that route, and maybe this is the route, grinding it out till the last game and coming into the playoffs hot and not with a three or four day layover like we have in the past. And maybe this is the road to success for us, and like I said, we feel ready, we feel rested, we feel ready to go and the Brewers are going to be a challenge, but we feel up for it.”
“It’s Game 163,” Rizzo said. “It’s a win-or-go-home game, and that’s been our mindset for about four and a half months, and tomorrow is a game we have to win.”
After the Nationals’ 19-31 start, they went 74-38 from late May on, becoming just the ninth team in MLB history to rally from 12 games under .500 to make the postseason, and what Martinez has told them is to just keep that up and do what they’ve been doing as they go into October.
“I just want them to go out there and continue to play the way they’ve been playing,” the second-year skipper told reporters.
“I told them right now it’s Game 163. That’s the way we’re going to approach it. And every day, the message — as you all know that have been here with me — to go 1-0, stay in the moment, stay in the here and now, and let’s take care of what you can take care of in that particular moment. Don’t think too far ahead, because in these one-game situations, every little thing matters, and they know that and we’ve preached that all year long with them.”
Good as the Nationals were down the stretch, their opponent was just as good.
The Brewers went 20-7 in September and were within 1.0 game of first place in the NL Central before the final weekend of the season.
“We’re going to face a good opponent,” Martinez acknowledged “They’re a good team. They can beat you many ways. A testament to how they play — they lost one of their best players, and they roll out a [20-7] to finish the season, so they’ve got guys who stepped up and played really well over the last month or so. We’ve just got to be ready. My focus, and I’ve said this all year, is it’s about us, the Washington Nationals. I focus on our team. And if we come out and play the kind of baseball we’re capable of playing, we should be okay. We should come out on top, so I just want to focus on us.”