Already assured of a playoff berth, the Washington Nationals made history Monday night by clinching first place in the National League East.
The Washington Nationals will tell you that they're not thinking about it. That their focus doesn't vary from the task at hand each day. On Wednesday, that was preparing to play the Philadelphia Phillies and attempting to shave their magic number to clinch the National League East to four.
The Washington Nationals ended a long drought for the nation's capital Thursday night by clinching a playoff spot, returning the District of Columbia to baseball's postseason for the first time in nearly 80 years. But back then, the only postseason was the World Series. There were no wild card teams and no playoffs. The Washington Senators _ also known as the Nationals _ had to beat out seven other teams in the American League standings to win the 1933 pennant.
The place was packed. The sidewalk, too. On a recent evening, the patrons at Justin's Cafe looked like an extension of the crowd at nearby Nationals Park, where the surging Washington Nationals were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers.
There is nothing about what John Lannan has done this season that seems normal to him. He looks around at the starting pitchers the Washington Nationals have used for the majority of this season, the power arms that pound hitters day after day, and knows he does not fit the mold.
The Washington Nationals began life without Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday. They did it without note and without fanfare. John Lannan took the mound, the Nationals won. The beat goes on.
Days after the Washington Redskins used the No. 2 pick in April's NFL Draft on Robert Griffin III, posters bearing his aw-shucks smile, braids and the word "hope" spun through the Internet.
The Washington Nationals' 2-0 victory over the New York Mets basically was like any other game for all but two of Washington's players — Stephen Strasburg, the phenom whose season was shut down last week, and John Lannan, the one-time rotation stalwart now filling the gap.
Wednesday evening, John Lannan will climb the mound at Citi Field and officially end his season in exile from the major leagues.