Drew Storen’s strikeout of Hanley Ramirez last night was historic. Not only did the game-ending K clinch a playoff berth for the Nationals, but the city of Washington will have a baseball team in the postseason for the first time since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first year in the White House.
This is no time to get cocky, however. In 1933, a trip to the postseason meant a World Series appearance. Until 1969, there was no championship series. Until 1995, there was no division series or wildcard. Until this season, there was no wildcard play-in game, which serves to highlight the importance of winning the division.
As skipper Davey Johnson explained following the 4–1 win over the Dodgers:
“It’s not what I had my eye on,” Johnson said of the playoff clincher, “It’s a nice step to get here, but every manager that’s leading the division, that’s the only thing that matters. Winning your division. The playoff format, with the one-game playoff . . . the old style, when you’re in as the Wild Card, that was okay. But I don’t want this.”
And while the National League East crown is nearly in the Nats’ hands — the magic number for clinching this morning stands at only eight, with twelve regular-season games remaining — the race for the top seed in the NL (i.e., home-field advantage) is neck-and-neck. The Central Division–leading Reds, who had clinched a playoff spot earlier in the afternoon, are only one-half game back of the Nats.
Whatever happens from this point on, Nats fans, smile and be proud of your team. Just don’t pop any corks until Davey tells you it’s safe to do so.