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The ball took flight like a missile, zipping into the crisp fall air that settled over the nation's capital on this October Thursday night. It sailed into the visitors' bullpen in left field. It clanked with a thud off the back wall. It carried with it the hopes of a team, of a fan base, of an entire city hoping the team's season would live at least one more day.
In the quiet calm that hovered over Busch Stadium Saturday afternoon, manager Davey Johnson sat in the dugout and looked out at the field. A groundskeeper made minor tweaks to the infield dirt, stadium personnel bustled around. Nothing seemed different about this day.
It was just Friday afternoon that Davey Johnson endorsed a co-closer approach. Both Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard would get chances down the stretch as the Washington Nationals try to wrap up the National League East title.
The ball nestled safely into the glove of catcher Kurt Suzuki as the scene behind him exploded. The final out in a win D.C. had waited 79 years to celebrate coming on a swinging strikeout. With their 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday night — a crisp fall evening in Washington — a D.C. baseball team sealed its first postseason berth since 1933.
The context of the Washington Nationals' season has made it so that there are very few situations in which their confidence wavers.
On better baseball teams, the collection of odds and ends that makes up a team's bullpen tends to be much greater than the sum of its parts. And we're seeing that now with the Washington Nationals, who all of a sudden are one of the big leagues' "better teams."
The sour realities that come with being the best team in the major leagues aren't all that plentiful. The Washington Nationals entered Tuesday night's game against the San Francisco Giants having lost just twice in their previous 13 games and the night before they'd set a record for hits inside the pitcher's haven that is AT&T Park.
The Washington Nationals have the best record in the majors. Say it often enough, and it begins to sound like: "We've put a man on the moon!" (or something similarly historic).
Drew Storen was just sitting in the bullpen Saturday holding a baseball when something clicked. Gripping the ball the way he usually did to throw his change-up, a pitch he had been working on improving since the end of the 2011 season, Storen shifted his fingers in the slightest of ways. The comfort was immediate.