If Nationals manager Davey Johnson had it his way, his team would clinch the National League East Monday night and they’d finish Wednesday evening with the best record in the National League, setting themselves up for a Sunday opener for the National League Division Series.
“That’s what I’d like to do,” Johnson said Monday afternoon, his team one win or one Atlanta Braves loss away from clinching the NL East title. “That would be Gio (Gonzalez’s) day. Whoever (the opponent) is, I don’t care. I’d like to start my 21-game winner.”
The playoff scenarios are still complicated with the second wild card still up for grabs and the overall seeding still undetermined. The Nationals likely won’t know until the end of the season whether they’ll finish with the best record, or if the Cincinnati Reds will surpass them. Currently, the Reds and the Nationals are tied with the best record but in that case, the Nationals would be the No. 1 seed because they took the season series from the Reds.
But if the Nationals finish with the No. 1 seed, they won’t know their opponent for the NLDS until Friday night, after the one-game wild card playoff has been completed. They’ve come to grips with that.
“It matters to me because I want to win the most games and have the best record,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. “That’s just my personality. As far as strategic, there’s nothing we can do about the strategy of it. We just play to win every time out. But if you ask me, would I like to have the best record? Yes, i’d like to have the best record.”
When that stuff does get sorted out, the Nationals will have a few days to ponder their playoff roster in which they’ll have to go from the 33 they have now back down to 25.
Those decisions will be made with input from all corners.
“It’s going to be collaborative with Davey, myself, the front office and the coaching staff,” Rizzo said. “We’re all in this together. We’re going to strategize and see what fits best for us. We’ll play different scenarios out and come up with the best 25 we feel that gives us the best chance to win.”
The Nationals have very few decisions to make, really, when it comes to the 25-man roster. It will be minor tweaks here or there and decisions over a long reliever or a late-inning one, an extra pitcher or an extra bench player.
“We’re going to dance with who brung us and we’re going to go with the team that we’ve had this season out there,” Rizzo said. “We feel good about guys we have throughout the season. We feel good about who we’ve got in our roster the way it’s created.”