The Washington Nationals clinched a berth in the National League wild-card game on Tuesday night and will spend the next few days working to ensure that game is played at Nationals Park.
The Nationals’ doubleheader sweep of the Phillies combined with the Chicago Cubs’ loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates ensured the Nationals return to the playoffs after a one-year absence. Washington (88-69) holds a one-game lead over the streaking Milwaukee Brewers (87-70) for the top wild-card spot.
Washington has two more games against the Phillies before ending the regular season with three games against the visiting Cleveland Indians.
After a 19-31 start, the Nationals turned their season around and could finish the season with over 90 wins and host the wild-card game.
“It’s so special,” veteran right-hander Stephen Strasburg told MASN.com. “It’s just a testament to the guys that we have in this clubhouse. We never stopped believing. It was a long, hard journey to get to this point, but the journey is not done. We are going to keep plugging away, keep leaving it all out there on the field.”
The journey continues as right-hander Anibal Sanchez (10-8, 3.91 ERA) opposes Philadelphia’s Drew Smyly (4-7, 6.44) Wednesday night in the fourth game of a five-game series.
Sanchez has a 2.37 ERA over his past three starts. Last time out he allowed three earned runs in five innings as Washington defeated Miami 6-4.
In four starts versus the Phillies this season, Sanchez is 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA. He’s 5-11 with a 4.49 ERA in 24 career starts against them.
Smyly opened September with a pair of strong efforts but has struggled in his last two. He allowed four runs on five hits and three walks in two-plus innings against the Indians last Friday.
“I just had much higher expectations for myself,” Smyly told MLB.com. “It stinks that this late in the season, I just didn’t bring it.”
Smyly, who has a 5.82 ERA in nine starts since the beginning of August, has yet to face the Nationals this season and has only made one brief relief appearance against them in his career.
After dropping the opener of Tuesday’s doubleheader 4-1, the Phillies looked like they might postpone Washington’s party by taking leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in the nightcap. However, the Nationals cut lead to 4-2 in the fourth and went ahead on Trea Turner’s grand slam in the sixth.
Bryce Harper’s homer off of Hunter Strickland pulled the Phillies within 6-5 but Washington held on and minutes after Daniel Hudson closed it out, the Nationals watched the Pirates close out the Cubs to put the Nationals in the playoffs.
“These guys deserve everything they got so far,” manager Dave Martinez told reporters. “They played their butts off all year long, and now we’re going to the postseason.”
Turner had three hits in the opening game and five Washington relievers contributed scoreless innings as the Nationals eliminated the Phillies from postseason contention.
“It’s disappointing,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins told the Philadelphia Enquirer. “You set out at the beginning of the year, the beginning of the offseason, spring training, whatever it may be with the goal in mind, right? Obviously, we’ve come up short this year.”
–Field Level Media