The Washington Nationals are going to the playoffs. The club clinched its third National League East title in the last four seasons after Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Nationals needed some help in order to clinch. The club not only had to win, but also needed the Miami Marlins to lose. Things looked stressful initially, as the Marlins and Atlanta Braves were tied in extras. In the 11th, Braves outfielder Lane Adams hit a walk-off home run to give the Braves the 10-8 victory.
The Nationals were definitely doing some scoreboard watching.
— Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell) September 10, 2017
It’s the earliest the Nationals have clinched the NL East since the franchise relocated in 2005. The team still has 19 regular season games remaining.
Over those 19 games, expect the Nats to play things carefully. The club has failed to make it out of the National League Division Series over the past few years, often due to missing players. It’s impossible to forget the Stephen Strasburg shutdown of 2012. The team was also without Strasburg and catcher Wilson Ramos — who was in the middle of a breakout — last year.
Dusty Baker may want to be more cautious than normal considering the team could be without superstar Bryce Harper this time around. Harper has been sidelined with a knee injury since mid-August. Baker said Aug. 30 that the 24-year-old outfielder was “a long ways from running.”
Harper, for what it’s worth, told a fan during a kid’s news conference at the park that he would play in the postseason:
Kid press conference at Nats SPH event…
Kid: "Bryce, will you play in the playoffs?"
Bryce: "Yes, I will."
— Laurie L (@NatsGirlz) September 9, 2017
That’s far from official, and Harper has every reason to be optimistic, so take that for what it’s worth.
While the team will — and should — celebrate winning the division, everyone knows this is only step one. The Nationals’ aspirations are much higher than simply winning the division. The club has to take that next step and succeed in the postseason.
For now, they can take their foot off the gas and get their players the appropriate amount of rest in preparation for October. If they can find a way to get Harper back and have most of their roster intact, this could finally be the season the Nationals break their NLDS curse and make a deep run.
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