The Washington Nationals won the National League East Monday, even though they were beaten 2-0 by the Philadelphia Phillies.
It’s the first time the MLB club has won a divisional title since relocating to the city from Montreal, Canada following the 2004 baseball season. The team also clinched the East Division title in 1981 as the Montreal Expos.
Ryan Zimmerman, the team’s third baseman, said the team played good baseball all season long and this forced the other teams in the division to play perfect ball to catch them. He added that the squad worked hard for the title and felt they deserved to win it. Left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez added that it’s an unbelievable feeling that’s so hard to describe.
The team celebrated in the clubhouse for approximately 30 minutes after losing to the Phillies and Mike Rizzo, the general manager, was doused in the process. The players then returned to the field and celebrated with their fans.
Jayson Werth credited manager Davey Johnson with turning Washington into a winning team. The player, who joined the club for the 2011 season from ironically the Phillies, said he wasn’t sure if the Nationals had what it takes to become a division winner when he arrived.
Werth said the team was upside down when he joined it and things didn’t start to change until Johnson took over the helm last season. He added that the players started to show a lot of promise and heart in September of last year and this carried on throughout the current season.
Werth said the team entered spring training with the same core players and a strong belief in themselves. They were also able to battle through several injuries and the players kept plugging away and playing hard every game.
Werth stated that it probably would have been nicer to clinch the division with a win over the Phillies, but the club still deserves to be in first place based on its play all season long and its 91-64 record. He said the players know they still have a long way to go and there’s a lot of hard work ahead of them if they want to realize their dream of winning the World Series.
After winning the division, the Nationals didn’t know who they’d be facing in the NL playoffs. If they finish the season with baseball’s best record the team could begin play on Sun. Oct. 7 against the wild card team, which could be either Atlanta, St. Louis or Los Angeles.
If the Cincinnati Reds beat them out for the best overall record, they will begin the playoffs a day earlier against the San Francisco Giants. Johnson said he doesn’t care who they play and it’s a sure bet that Gonzalez will be on the pitcher’s mound for the opening game.
Gonzalez leads the NL with 21 wins and is a candidate for the Cy Young Award. Johnson said he’d rather play Sunday though, since it would give Gonzalez an extra day of rest.
The Nationals pitching staff is the best in baseball this season, but their offense has been rather inconsistent and the team has a 7-10 record in their past 17 games. Johnson said everything will have to come together for them if they’re going to win the World Series.