September 20, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; Washington Nationals fans hold signs in support of the team after the Nationals clinched a wild card spot after a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park. The Nationals defeated the Dodgers 4 - 1. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Nationals Clinch First Playoff Birth In 79 Years After 4-1 Win Over Dodgers


I am praying that my tears of joy won’t ruin my computer before this recap is over. I’m actually crying right now (because true men express their emotions). Wow. Everything went right tonight. I don’t even know where to start.

Let’s start with Ross Detwiler; a huge bright spot for the Nats this season and a big reason why they are where they are today.

Detwiler, the man who wasn’t even in the starting rotation at the start of this season, put together yet another dazzling start tonight, giving up just one run over six innings of work.

The one blemish would be a leadoff home run by Mark Ellis to start the fourth inning, but all in all, a solid effort from Detwiler. The lefty would give up just three hits and a walk, giving the offense plenty of room to take a lead.

The bats would take advantage, getting Dodgers starter Chris Capuano for four runs in the first four innings.

It would all start in the third inning with who other than Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman would take Capuano to center field to score Bryce Harper for the first Nationals run. Zimmerman would then score on a heads-up play with two outs, taking home on a wild pitch by Capuano to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead heading into the top of the fourth.

Ian Desmond would lead off the bottom of the fourth by drawing a walk, bringing up Danny Espinosa with a runner on first. Espinosa would hit a double down the left-field line to score Desmond, taking third base on the wide throw to home. Espinosa would then score on a sac-fly by Kurt Suzuki, giving the Nats the 4-1 lead.

Five innings of great defense and stellar pitching later, it would be up to Drew Storen, the 2010 10th-overall draft choice that had just become an adult when the Nationals moved to Washington. It would be up to Storen to lock the Nationals in for a first date with the post-season, and Storen came through.

In what was one of the most dominant innings I’ve ever seen from the right-hander, Storen retired Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez in order, all via the strikeout.

The Nationals got the date, but now they hope to make this relationship last. Manager Davey Johnson stressed (in a lighthearted way) in the post-game press conference that this is just the first of many goals the Nationals have for this season; his first comment being, “What’s the big deal?” (Oh Davey, how I love your great sense of humor.)

Well it may not be a big deal to Johnson, but it was to us Nationals fans. In this one instance, I am indeed allowed to put words in your mouths.

Here’s to all the Senators fans of yesteryear, and to all of the new baseball fans like myself that latched on with the Nats back in 2005. It’s been a long six years, but tonight, we’re fans of a playoff team.

Tonight was also a very special night for two Nationals, as the middle infield got a little bit older today.

Desmond and Steve Lombardozzi celebrated birthdays this evening, turning 27 and 24 respectively. Desmond had a spectacular night at the dish, going 2-3 with a walk and a run scored. Lombardozzi got in the game late as a pinch hitter, and struck out. However, both infielders walked away with their Nationals postseason T-Shirts, as well as free membership to Nationals October baseball.

So enjoy the night Nationals fans. See. You. Later… in the post-season.

Champ of the Game: Ryan Zimmerman – for sentimental and statistical reasons. First for the latter: Zimmerman drove in what would prove to be the tying RBI in tonight’s game, and also scored the go-ahead run on the wild pitch. Zimmerman also flashed plenty of leather, and I’d recommend tuning in to Baseball Tonight because he’s sure to be on Web Gems.

Now onto the sentimental side. Ryan Zimmerman was the first ever draft pick of the Washington Nationals, and now he’s the starting third baseman; the (at least to hometown fans) face of the franchise. This guy has battled through an injury that will ultimately require surgery to fix all season long, and has done so in impressive fashion. I’ll let the .284 average, 22 home runs and 85 RBIs speak for themselves, but congrats Zimmerman, and thanks for carrying us into what should be an era of glory days.

Chump of the Game: The Nationals have just clinched their first ever playoff appearance. Tonight we’re keeping it positive. There are no losers (except the Dodgers!)

Unsung Hero: Davey Johnson. Davey kept these guys calm, cool and collected. As Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90-percent mental,” and the Nats were able to keep their composure tonight to lock in a trip to October.

Next Game: The Nationals look to continue their charge towards their first-ever division title tomorrow as they open up a home series against the Milwaukee Brewers. Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.89 ERA) goes for win number ten as he takes on rookie right-hander Wily Peralta (2-0, 2.14 ERA). Be sure to check back as always for another game recap as well as more thoughts on the Nats’ postseason birth!

Tags: Featured Playoffs Postseason Ross Detwiler Ryan Zimmerman Washington Nationals Wild Card

  • Aaron Somers

    Well done Michael. Your recap summed up the emotions of Nationals fans all over. But Johnson is right, this team isn’t done yet. This is merely the first step on an exciting journey.