If the Washington Nationals manage to pick up just one victory in their final three games to clinch the National League East, they’ll do it against the team that won the past five division titles.
The Philadelphia Phillies clinched three of those five pennants against the Nationals. So would it bother manager Charlie Manuel if the Nats did it against the Phillies this week?
“Not necessarily,” he said with a smirk. “It’d just make me mad.”
In Manuel’s parlance, being mad is worse than being bothered. But he was still very complimentary of the Nats when speaking before Monday’s season opener.
“They’ve had a good season. They broke out early and they got on top early and they played solid baseball all year long. And they did a good job,” he said. “But at the same time when we come out here, we want to come out here to win, of course.”
The Phillies might be without shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who is out of Monday night’s game with a right calf injury suffered over the weekend. The lineup without him includes journeyman Kevin Frandsen leading off and Michael Martinez at short.
The Nats can clinch with one win or one Atlanta Braves loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. If they wrap up the division by beating the Phillies, it won’t be more special for general manager Mike Rizzo.
“I haven’t gone that deep into it. I want to win as many games as we can, clinch the division and prepare for the playoffs, be it the Phillies or the Mets or the Braves,” Rizzo said. “Whoever it would be against, it would be an extremely exciting time for us. I don’t think that has any significance, to me personally.”