5 Things Washington Nationals Must do to Win in Post Season
Washington Nationals: 5 Things They Must do to Win in Postseason
There are five things that the Washington Nationals must do in order to win in the post season. The team has accomplished its main goal of getting in. Now it must do what is necessary to advance as far as possible.
Washington currently sports a record of 95-61 which puts them first in the National League East. They are three games ahead of the Atlanta Braves with six to play. The Nationals magic number for winning the division is three.
Washington is one game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds for first place in the NL. If they can hold off the Reds and Braves the Nationals will have home field advantage throughout the post season. If they finish second to Cincinnati then the Reds would earn it. This means that if Washington and Cincinnati were to meet in the league championship series the Nationals would have to play games one and two on the road.
Some of the things that Washington must do have to be done in the regular season. The rest must be taken care of when they play in October. If they don't take care of the business at hand in September then October hurdles will be tougher to clear.
The Nationals know this. They know that despite everything that they have accomplished so far there are still goals to be reached. Getting into the playoffs is one thing. Setting yourself up for a championship run is another.
So with six games left in the regular season here are the five things that Washington must do in order to win the post season.
Bryce Harper Greeted by Teammates
The first thing that the Nationals must do is win the East. If the Braves were to catch them Washington would have to play a one game wildcard playoff. They would host the game, but this does not guarantee victory.
Also as a wildcard, the Nationals would lose home field advantage throughout the NLCS. The only way that they could get it is by making it to the World Series.
By winning the East Washington may have to go on the road for their first two post season games, but would be guaranteed a best of five instead of one game for it all.
Nationals vs Reds
The second thing that Washington must do is beat Cincinnati for first place. By earning the number one seed Washington would have home field throughout the playoffs. They would also play the winner of the wildcard game in the NLDS.
At the moment, the Braves and St. Louis Cardinals are in fourth and fifth place. They would meet in Atlanta for the right to play Washington. No matter who wins the Nationals would have to play them on the road in games one and two of the divisional series. These games would be played in either the eastern or central time zone.
If the Nationals finish second they would have to fly out to play the San Francisco Giants three time zones away. It makes sense that Washington would want to stay as close to home as possible.
The third thing that the Nationals need is better pitching from the bullpen. Despite their record, Washington's bullpen has been shaky at times. They have blown 16 saves in 65 opportunities or 25 per cent. This ranks them behind Cincinnati, San Francisco and Atlanta.
The Nationals have relied on Tyler Clippard to be their closer for much of the season. He has saved 32 and blown five. His earned run average is 3.69. This is not exactly comforting going into post season play. But Washington should have enough depth going into October. If Clippard struggles manager Davey Johnson may turn to Drew Storen or Craig Stammen.
Danny Espinosa takes the throw
The fourth thing that the Nationals must do is hold runners on base. Washington has one of the worst stolen base allowed percentages at 83. Nationals' catchers have thrown out only 22 runners trying to steal in 111 attempts.
Most of this has to do with Washington's pitching staff. None of them have been able to hold runners well enough to give their catchers a 50/50 shot at success. The best stolen base percentage on the team is Chien-Ming Wang's 43. He has missed most of the season due to injury. Of those who have been available all season Edwin Jackson is tops at 42 per cent.
In the post season teams can not give up any bases. The Nationals will have to do a better job of stopping opponents from manufacturing runs.
LaRoche and Espinosa
The fifth thing that Washington has to do is continue to win on the road. Washington has a 47-31 record on the road going into Friday night night's game in St. Louis. This is the best in baseball two games better than the Braves and Baltimore Orioles.
If the Nationals win the East they will have to play their first two playoff games on the road. This gives their opponent the advantage. In order to avoid having to win three straight at home Washington will have to win one on the road. The Nationals have a winning record on the road against Cincinnati and San Francisco. They were swept by the Braves in their last series two weeks ago. This weekend will be their first trip to St. Louis.
If Washington is to have any chance at winning the world's championship they will need to prove they are the best on the road.
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