Nationals clinch NL East title

Washington drops game, but Braves loss seals championship

  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) gets a huge cheer from the crowd as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) gets a huge cheer from the crowd as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • The Washington Nationals celebrate getting into the playoffs in their locker room at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)The Washington Nationals celebrate getting into the playoffs in their locker room at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28), left, and Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34), right, smile as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28), left, and Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34), right, smile as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Fans celebrate after the Washington Nationals clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, DC., Monday, October 1, 2012.(Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times) Fans celebrate after the Washington Nationals clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, DC., Monday, October 1, 2012.(Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times)
  • A fan holds up his hat as the Washington Nationals play the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)A fan holds up his hat as the Washington Nationals play the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • The Washington Nationals celebrate getting into the playoffs in their locker room at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)The Washington Nationals celebrate getting into the playoffs in their locker room at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • The Washington Nationals celebrate in their locker room after clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, DC., Monday, October 1, 2012.(Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times) The Washington Nationals celebrate in their locker room after clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, DC., Monday, October 1, 2012.(Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times)
  • The Washington Nationals celebrate in their locker room after clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, DC., Monday, October 1, 2012.(Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times) The Washington Nationals celebrate in their locker room after clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, DC., Monday, October 1, 2012.(Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times)
  • The Washington Nationals celebrate getting into the playoffs in their locker room at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)The Washington Nationals celebrate getting into the playoffs in their locker room at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Owner Ted Lerner sips Champaign as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Owner Ted Lerner sips Champaign as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11), center, celebrates with his teammates as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11), center, celebrates with his teammates as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals second baseman Stephen Lombardozzi (1) gets covered in beer as he and teammates celebrate as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals second baseman Stephen Lombardozzi (1) gets covered in beer as he and teammates celebrate as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) has beer sprayed on him after the Washington Nationals clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. (Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times) Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) has beer sprayed on him after the Washington Nationals clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. (Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals left fielder Michael Morse (38), right, dumps water on first baseman Adam LaRoche (25) after the Washington Nationals clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. (Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times) Washington Nationals left fielder Michael Morse (38), right, dumps water on first baseman Adam LaRoche (25) after the Washington Nationals clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. (Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals left fielder Mark DeRosa (7), left, and Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34), center, celebrate with their teammates as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals left fielder Mark DeRosa (7), left, and Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34), center, celebrate with their teammates as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28), right, throws beers on Washington Nationals fans in right field as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28), right, throws beers on Washington Nationals fans in right field as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche (25) kisses his daughter Montana as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche (25) kisses his daughter Montana as the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) hugs his two sons after Washington Nationals clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. (Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times) Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) hugs his two sons after Washington Nationals clinching National League East, sending them into the playoffs at Nationals Ballpark, Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. (Craig Bisacre/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals left fielder Mark DeRosa (7), left, and Washington Nationals left fielder Michael Morse (38), center, heads to the locker room as the the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals left fielder Mark DeRosa (7), left, and Washington Nationals left fielder Michael Morse (38), center, heads to the locker room as the the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East at Nationals Park, sending them into the playoffs, Washington, D.C., Monday, October 1, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
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They sang the song in unison. It was one they’d heard 96 times before, the one they put on after every win they ticked off in this deliriously charmed season. They knew the words.

“I’m in the pursuit of happiness and I know, everything that shine ain’t always gonna be gold. I’ll be fine, once I get it.”

They jumped up and down and sprayed beer and champagne. They hugged and laughed and screamed. They soaked their new dark gray T-shirts and strapped on ski goggles and swim goggles and anything else they could find.

The Washington Nationals clinched the National League East championship Monday night and in the aftermath they doused themselves in everything they could find from Pedialyte to soda, Miller Lite and 2002 Dom Perignon. They sprayed shaving cream and powder. They circled the warning track and tossed champagne into the stands.

They gave their adoring fans the show they’d come to see.

“At this point, it’s almost like at church: Just turn to a partner and hug him,” said left-hander Gio Gonzalez. “This is unbelievable. This is just one of those breathtaking moments.”

“As much as you want to dream and see it on TV, there’s nothing like being soaked and freezing and just smelling like beer and champagne,” said closer Drew Storen. “There’s no better feeling in the world.”

It happened in an odd way, in the middle of a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, as the Atlanta Braves’ 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates went final just after 9:45 p.m Monday night. Jordan Zimmermann and Gonzalez overheard fans say the game was over, they waited pensively for the scoreboard to show it. When it flashed the good news, they knew for sure.

They came in from the top of the ninth and smacked hands. They hugged and pumped their fists. Their own outcome had become happily irrelevant. The result 250 miles to the northwest of Washington let loose a celebration eight years in the making inside the District. They danced in the dugout as their loss went final and manager Davey Johnson came to the top step to raise his fists to the crowd.

They washed themselves in the cheers of the 35,387 that came to see this moment and they reveled in a moment only a handful of them had ever experienced before.

“It was not strange at all,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the face of a franchise that had waited so long for this day. “We worked so hard for that. We deserve it. We put ourselves in that position. By playing good baseball all year we made these other teams have to play perfect baseball to catch us.”

“It totally erased that loss which doesn’t ever happen to me,” said shortstop Ian Desmond.

“This is the first time in my life that I’ve rooted for the Pirates,” said first baseman Adam LaRoche, who played for Pittsburgh for parts of three seasons.

Back in the clubhouse, Michael Morse filled a Gatorade cooler with water from the shower and doused them. They pushed Wilson Ramos in a shopping cart as they sprayed him and circled around Mark DeRosa as he break-danced. Zimmerman and Jayson Werth stood in the middle of the group, leading the way.

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