NATIONALS ENSURE FIRST WINNING SEASON SINCE RELOCATION IN 2005
In the grand scheme of things for the Washington Nationals this season, win No. 82 was little more than a blip on the radar on their way to a potential post-season berth. But for long-time fans of the team that suffered through 298 losses in a three-year period form 2008-2010, it’s a significant milestone in the franchise’s history, a moment to savor before moving on to dreams of baseball playoffs in the Nation’s Capital.
In fact, it’s the first winning season in D.C. since 1969.
The Nats 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs before a Labor Day crowd of 23,215 quickly puts away whatever distraction there might have been over etching the historic win, and allows everyone to concentrate on the pennant race.
Was the win important to manager Davey Johnson? “I guess,” he said nonchalantly during his post-game press conference. “I wasn’t really concerned about that.”
What Johnson was concerned about was the excellent effort his nominal No. 5 starter, Ross Detwiler, gave him on a warm, muggy afternoon under the hazy sun. “Det was awesome. He’s been pretty awesome all year long. But today he was real special. He mixed in some breaking balls. Even the ones that were bad were pretty good.”
Detwiler (W, 9-6, 3.15) gave Johnson seven innings of shutout baseball, allowing just four hits and three walks, striking out three. He was able to use his changeup and curveball effectively — playing off his two-seam and four-seam fastballs — generating nine ground ball outs, including two inning ending double plays in the sixth and seventh innings.
Detwiler was able to make Adam LaRoche’s upper deck home run in the second inning off Jeff Samardzija (L, 8-13, 3.91) hold up through the seventh, then got help from Drew Storen with a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth. The Nats got an insurance run in the bottom half, as Bryce Harper singled and scored from first on Ryan Zimmerman’s double to the left field corner.
That insurance proved huge, as Tyler Clippard had a nail-biter in the ninth. Cubs catcher Wellington Castillo’s flare to center scored Anthony Rizzo with two outs, then pinch-runner Tony Campana took second on a wild pick-off throw. But Clippard came back to strike out rookie Josh Vitters with an 82-MPH changeup to secure the victory and earn his 30th save, becoming the third Nationals reliever to reach the mark, along with Chad Cordero (twice) and Drew Storen last season.
PHOTO GALLERY: Check out new photos from Monday’s game with the Nationals in the blue jerseys.
THE TAKEAWAY: Davey Johnson and the players tried to dismiss talk about clinching a winning season, and that’s probably the right attitude inside the clubhouse. Most of the players on this team weren’t around for the debacles in ’08 and ’09, or that first building year in ’10. But fans that have been with the team since the RFK days should take a moment to savor Monday’s win and not take it for granted considering how well the Nats have played so far and much baseball is left to be played this season still.
THE GOOD: Detwiler. Much has been (and will continue to be) made about The Shutdown. But there are plenty of teams that would kill to have a hard-throwing, ground ball inducing lefty in the fifth spot in their rotation as an insurance policy.
THE BAD: Ian Desmond was napping and got picked off at first by a throw from the catcher Castillo. Castillo had tried the move earlier with another base runner and Desmond just got careless. Thankfully it didn’t come back to bite the Nats.
THE UGLY: Michael Morse was removed from the game in the bottom of the fourth inning with what Davey Johnson described as soreness in his right hand, the same hand that was hit in Philadelphia the caused him to miss three games last week. Morse said after the game it was fine and expects to be int he lineup Tuesday.
THE STATS: 9 hits, 1 BB, 9 Ks. 0-for-5 with RISP, 7 LOB, no GIDP. E: Zimmerman (13), Clippard (2), two DPs.
NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 7:05 pm against the Cubs.