by Alex Poletti
In the bottom of the sixth with two out and the bases loaded, Trea Turner drove a 92-mph pitch from Phillies reliever Phil Hughes into the left field bleachers in front of a jam-packed Nationals Park. With that homer, the shortstop secured Washington another trip to the playoffs, their first since 2017. Not only did Washington secure a spot in the National League Wild Card game, but they also earned their way to get eliminated from the playoffs in the NLDS once again.
“I’m so excited to go back to the playoffs with these guys,” Turner says. “It’s an incredible group of players, and there’s no one I’d rather get swept by the Dodgers with in the first round of the playoffs.”
While a trip to the Division Series is not confirmed—they’ll need to go through the second wild card team, presumably the Milwaukee Brewers—they look poised to get there with Max Scherzer on the mound for the rubber match game. Then it’s home free: by that, we mean they’ll be free to go home after being handed three losses by the Dodgers.
“I see the looks on these players’ faces—we’re ready for whatever comes,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez says. “Blowouts, close losses, blown saves, we can handle any loss the Dodgers deal us.”
The Nationals have made it to the postseason on four occasions since their relocation from Montreal, and they have failed to reach the Championship Series every time. Their best shot perhaps came in 2012 in their first playoff appearance in the nation’s capital, when they held a six-run lead in game five, and a two-run lead entering the ninth. They were unable to capitalize on the situation and were sent home by the St. Louis Cardinals.
After missing out on the playoffs last season, Washington’s hopes looked even bleaker this year. With superstar Bryce Harper moving to the Phillies, fans and analysts remained uncertain if the Nats could bounce back, even with the free agent signing of Patrick Corbin. In May, it seemed that the skeptics’ suspicions were confirmed, as Washington sat 12 games below .500. However, with grit and determination, the Nationals were able to make a comeback.
“There’s no doubt that we played some bad baseball in the beginning of the year,” Martinez continues. “But that isn’t how we play. At least not in the regular season. I hope fans are ready to see those Nationals from May again in October.”