Saturday, December 29, 2012

Most significant moments: The clincher

Photo by Bob Youngentob / CSNwashington.com
Even in defeat, the Nationals clinched the NL East title on Oct. 1.
As we count down the final days of 2012, we're also counting down the Nationals' five most significant moments of the year. It all culminates on Dec. 31 with your vote for the most significant moment of 2012. Today we focus on Moment No. 3: The Nats' clinching of their first NL East title...

This city waited 79 years to experience something like this, the local ballclub popping champagne corks and celebrating a championship. So when it finally happened Oct. 1, it mattered not one bit to the Nationals nor their fans that it happened in spite of a loss.

Decades from now, few will remember that the Nationals clinched their first NL East title -- the first baseball title of any kind for a Washington major-league team since 1933 -- by virtue of the Braves losing 2-1 to the Pirates only moments before the Nats were shut out by the Phillies, 2-0.

"The way it happened tonight, it doesn't matter," a soaked Ryan Zimmerman said on the field at Nationals Park some 45 minutes later. "We put ourselves in that position, to have the luxury of making the other team have to play perfect baseball. We played a great 159 games to get to that point. We should be commended for that."

What appeared to be a foregone conclusion for weeks -- they held an 8 1/2-game lead on Atlanta with 19 to go -- had suddenly turned into anything but a formality. After squandering an opportunity to clinch on the road in St. Louis, the Nationals returned home for the final series of the regular season, their magic number stuck on 1.

It would have remained at that lonely number had the Braves found a way to rally late in Pittsburgh and keep their last-ditch hopes alive, because the Nationals were unable to take care of business themselves and were shut out by the Phillies' Kyle Kendrick.

But the crowd of 35,387 on a Monday night in October still got to celebrate once the score from Pittsburgh went final. With the Nationals' still needing to bat in the bottom of the ninth, players began celebrating with high-fives and hugs.

They went down quietly at the plate to end the game, then retreated to their clubhouse for a raucous celebration that featured everything from Gio Gonzalez pouring beer on 86-year-old owner Ted Lerner's head to 19-year-old Bryce Harper and 9-year-old Drake LaRoche spraying apple cider.

Then the celebration moved back onto the field, where thousands of fans had waited to experience it all themselves. Players showered them with booze, took victory laps around the warning track and relished an accomplishment that hadn't been realized in this town in nearly eight decades.

"This division is tough," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "To me it's as tough, if not the toughest, division in baseball. And we won it."

86 comments:

Joe Seamhead said...

I'll never forget the emotion that I experienced at the stadium that night. Beyond words.

Dryw Loves the Nats said...

I'll never forget section 313 sitting at the park, staring at our phones, paying more attention to the other game than ours! And, of course, the emotion. Beyond words, indeed, Joe.

JayB said...

A game i missed in person. Coworker who I gave my ticket to said it was awesome....yea yea whatever ;)

Looking back at the month of Sept they were just over .500, swepped by ATL and lost 3 of 5 to Cards. Team backed into the division crown with a shutout loss to the Phils at home. In hind sight was the writing on the wall for all to see. Maybe this team is not as good as we all hope they are. They clearly do not have September and October figured out yet.


MicheleS said...

I was sitting in Section 112 and it was great!

NatsLady said...

Or May, apparently, when they were also "just over .500," and the Marlins were scorching hot...

JD said...


You are right JayB. Those 100 wins were clearly a fluke.

baseballswami said...

Wins are wins in April, June or October. The Braves were scorching hot down the stretch, but we had enough of a lead and played steady enough to hold them off. I think that extreme pressure day In and day out proved to be a factor that wore down some nerves. And it's too early on Saturday morning for doom and gloom. Quit killing my weekend buzz.

NatsJack in Florida said...

JayB = "THE DARK CLOUD"

alexva said...

my dear JayB, you have exhausted my powers of refudiation.

happy new year to all

gyfng in 2013!!

NatsLady said...

The team is built. Outfield, rotation, bench, infield (2 solid alternatives) and bullpen except for maybe one "situational" reliever.

All the talk is just that, talk, until the games start. Then we see.

sjm308 said...

I was in 308 - Oh wait, you guys already know that.

Eeyore(JayB) - how poetic that you were not there. You would have found something to gripe about instead of getting caught up in a wave of joy which I am guessing you can't experience. Maybe its genetic.

Here will be your post after we win the World Series "Well, I expected this and I thought we should have won in 4 games, or even 3. The real test will be to see if we can win the next 15 years as well. Not sure Rizzo knows what he is doing. Oh well, have to go look for my house, its not where it was this morning. Over and out, Eeyore JayB."

Joe Seamhead said...

JayB, you can be such a curmudgeon. Rather then piss in everyone else's Wheaties first thing in the morning,just smolder in your own vile, will you? They didn't back into the division crown, it just happened the clincher occurred on a night when they didn't win one game.[It also happened while the Nats/Phills game was still in progress]. Yes,so they clinched the East in a rather anti-climatic way, but it in no way diminished the joy of seeing people of all ages, but especially those that went back to the days of the Senators, literally getting tears of joy. For me, it was more satisfying then being at RFK for the 1972 Redskins win over Dallas. Virtually everybody's expectations were exceeded by the 2012 Nats. Even though I predicted the NL East crown for them last November, I never thought that they would go to the World Series last year.

Joe Seamhead said...

JayB, the Cards are the team that backed into the the first round with the disputed win over the Braves in the wildcard game with the infield fly rule call.

sjm308 said...

By the way, when I cast the Nats Insider Winnie the Pooh tv series, I see MicheleS as Tigger, and maybe natsfan1a as Kanga. NatsJack or JohnC can be Christopher Robin (voice of reason). Natslady is Owl (although she is smarter than the AA Milne owl).
All we need now are Pooh & piglet. Since they are the main characters, I guess we could give those roles to Mark and Chase. I am leaving out some of my favorite posters but you are all free to ask for parts and maybe I will make changes. Try as I can, I find no role for Peric even when he is on good behavior and I agree with him. Milne didn't write that kind of part. Definitely no place for Legion of Doom people, this was a kids book but has a great message for adults as well. You guys should reread when not looking at baseball stats. Only game I could find was "pooh sticks" which involves a bridge, a couple of sticks and a swift little creek. Pretty sure JayB would find something wrong with the way the sticks were thrown in the creek.

Go Nats!!

Gonat said...

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2012/12/29/murdoch-continues-to-arm-for-battle-against-disney-with-purchase-of-cleveland-indians-rsn/

FOX and the Regional Sports Networks.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Actually, baseball is the perfect game for someone like JayB. You know... the guy that loves pointing out everybody's failures.

Since baseball is such a poetic game of failures, he has endless days of joy for even the most successful teams and players experience moments to be framed as failure.

Yes.. it's easy to see why JayB enjoys baseball.

NatsLady said...

Joe, Atlanta was losing that game anyway, with errors and so forth, and even they knew it. My lasting memory is of the trash fans threw on the field and Atlanta sportswriters saying that "proves" fans care. If it hadn't been a playoff game, Atlanta would have probably forfeited.

sjm308 said...

So, what you are saying NatsJack is that joy to JayB is finding failure in others. I still am betting he either can't or refuses to find happiness/joy in much with his life if we believe that what we read here is any indication of who someone is.

Honestly, I have to believe that natsfan1a is just really a nice person. Never have I read anything to disprove that. I have met Seamhead and 222, MicheleS, and you (briefly) and all your writing on here matches what I experienced in person. Speaking of meeting insiders, where has Natswonk been? It was so great to read about his daughter getting caught up in her first real year of becoming a baseball fan.

SCNatsFan said...

Any Nats fan who comes out of last season unhappy is either someone who just jumped on the bandwagon or someone who just won't let themselves be happy. As a long suffering Expos fan it was the best season ever (more fun then the strike shortened trip to the playoffs) and I've never been more excited for spring to arrive.

baseballswami said...

What matters is where you stand after 162. We lost the night we clinched. I have to think that is somewhat common since the standings are based on a combination of wins and losses. Even though the Braves were breathing down our necks the final numbers have us at 98 wins and the Braves at 94- not right behind us after all. My petty confession- I loved watching the Braves lose the wild card game , no matter how it went down , and watching Medlen lose- I find him to be an arrogant little pissant. Guess the Braves didn't handle his TJ recovery so perfectly now , did they? They didn't go past that wild card game. Lots of you seem to be bitter about the Cards- they got hot at the right time. I see the Braves as a royal, daily pain in the posterior.

Joe Seamhead said...

NatsLady, you are correct,the Braves were losing 6-3, but if the disputed call had not been made the Braves would have had the bases loaded with one out.Momentum crossed the field.No guaranty, of course, but the call pretty much killed their rally.
The Atlanta fans were a disgrace to baseball that night.
I just don't like it said that the Nats "backed in" to the playoffs. With a couple of less injuries they probably would've had it sewn up a week earlier.

sjm308 said...

Back to the Title of the post. One picture that will NEVER leave my camera is the one on the scoreboard. NL EAST DIVISION CHAMPIONS

natsfan1a said...

I was at the game as well and had this to say afterwards:

natsfan1a said...

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! That may have been my most awesome birthday ever. Yeah, we backed in but I'll take it. Our section had a pretty good "Let's go Bucs" going on. Saw some old school t-shirts, too. My fave was a Termel Sledge. Remember him? A couple of us went up to the guy to compliment him on it after the game. Well played, sir. Also liked the guy with the "first in war, first in peace, and first in the National League" sign. Coming home on the Metro, there was a young guy with a Pirates jersey. After I thanked him for tonight, he said he grew up as a Pirates fan and rooted for the Nats as well after coming here. I think he said he was wearing the jersey in honor of the 40th anniversary of Clemente's 3000 hits record (it was kind of noisy on the train). One guy asked him whether he'd ever heard so many fans cheering for the Pirates as at tonight's game. :-)

October 01, 2012 11:49 PM

sjm308 said...

Or as 1a would post NL EAST DIVISION CHAMPIONS

natsfan1a said...

You got it, sjm. :-)

natsfan1a said...

And well done.

baseballswami said...

I think you might have thought we backed in if it had been the final game and the Braves finished one back of us. We finished four up on them-- that's not backing in, that's just a coincidence of clinching on a particular day where you lose. No matter. We ended up winning 98 games with all those injuries and SS shutdown. That's impressive. And that night was glorious.

natsfan1a said...

I'm not knocking the achievement by any means, swami.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

I think there's a Twilight Zone episode about a guy who is a zealous but joyless fan, thereby pissing off the baseball god of such things. He wins season tickets for life, but circumstances forever conspire to have him miss every really good game. And forever is a long time.

Brilliant guy, that Serling.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

and 1a, I was there (h/t Scooter) in my 2005 First Game Jose Vidro #3 jersey.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

And just to lay off other posters and Rizzo for a few minutes, give it up for the fans who did come around as the season went on. Slowly, they're getting the hang of not standing up to go during a Harper AB; knowing when to cheer, and what to cheer for; even occasionally appreciating a good play by the opposition. Fewer waves, swapping out Syrupy Caroline for Take On Me, and being generally welcoming to other teams' fans, except for Taking Back the Park, which was awesome. More of that, please!

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

"Refudiation" is my new favorite word.

baseballswami said...

Natitude- brilliant. Take Back the Park- brilliant. Bryce stealing home against Hamels. Davey's "they can fire me" statement. Jayson's HR. Each and everyone one of those things showed a real sea change for 2012. It was the season where the Nats forged their own identity and particular brand of baseball. Interesting year, too. Caps, DC United, Nats, now NFL. Some real swagger going on. Just the start of things to come!!

NatsLady said...

Sofa, wasn't "refudiation" invented by Palin?

Unknown said...

"This division is tough," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "To me it's as tough, if not the toughest, division in baseball. And we won it."

Well said and true forever. A GREAT accomplishment and, better, I might add, then winning a 3-round tourney where a team plays, at most, 19 games.

I will always cherish the moment MLB at-bat confirmed that Pgh had won -- and the division thus belonged to Our Beloved Nats. What happened in the playoffs does not diminish the wonderfulness of this accomplishment and that night.

Let this warm you until the day pitchers and catchers report. Happy New Year folks.

natsfan1a said...

Swami, I'm guessing that Jayson's dinger will show up in the 2012 significant moments. Was there for that game, too. Loved it!

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

NL, yes; like Shakespeare, she said, she makes up words. ; )

And I just don't see Michele as Tigger.

Tigger is verbose, compulsively competitive, claims to be an expert at almost everything (he's not), never admits fault, and despite their own good naturedness he generally gets on the other animals' nerves, as they seem to give him a wide berth, probably from all the bouncing. And "Tiggers never get lost."

Doesn't sound like Michele to me.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

And Mark would have to be Christopher Robin, no?

MurrayTheRed said...

It was great, I was there, but better was the game that gave us the winning season.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

If the Clincher is #3, then Games 4 and 5, in that order, have to be 2 and 1, probably in that order, right? Maybe Zim's cortizone shot should be in there, though. Getting Ramos back was pretty significant, top ten maybe if not top five.

baseballswami said...

Just off the list at maybe six -- John Lannan coming up from Syracuse and being the stopper after that horrible Friday night meltdown. The whole Lannan situation was an interesting sub- plot. I am pulling for him except when he faces is.

baseballswami said...

Us.

Traveler8 said...

Clinching the title was a great, great moment, and it was amazing to see the electricity that went through the stands when the Pirates -Atlanta game went to Final. I count myself very lucky to have been there.

Feel Wood said...

Haters gotta hate. Sometimes they're out front with it, sometimes they back into it. But haters gotta hate.

Joe Seamhead said...

Werth's hit in Philly after not throwing the ball in the stands was pretty super, too. It was a great regular season, filled with so many memories, culminating in winning the NL East title.
In early English-lit classes I had a hard time determining when a story was a comedy or a tragedy, but for a guy who has had season tickets for so long, yet doesn't seem to have gotten any joy from the season, seems like a tragedy to me.

sjm308 said...

Gorse: now that you expand all of tiggers traits I guess you are correct - I just thought of tigger as someone excited about life (our nats!!), and thought of him as a happy bouncy tiger. I didn't realize he never admitted faults, I will have to go back and reread.

sjm308 said...

Gorse: I do want to thank you for adding your thoughts on this deep topic (ha,ha)

sjm308 said...

Is that Morse in Mark's picture!! I loved when they came back out!!! I also loved that most of us were still there to great them. It really was a great moment and the excitement up in 308 was amazing.

natsfan1a said...

I would think so, sofhackage, but then again I am a Fan of Very Little Brain, or a Kanga, or something. :-)

On a significant moments note, hmmmm...yes...clinching the best record in baseball, vs. the Phillies, was pretty sweet, too. I was at that one as well. Ahhhh, the memories. So nice to have a number of them from which to choose, eh?

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

And Mark would have to be Christopher Robin, no?
December 29, 2012 10:04 AM

natsfan1a said...

Speaking of Morse, absolutely loved the moment when he stepped out of the box with a huge grin on his face as the fans serenaded him after the clinching cheers had subsided (if I'm remembering correctly, which I don't always do).

TheManBearPig said...

A 98-win team doesn't "back in" to a division title. Winning on clinch day, especially against the Phillies, would have been so much better than the way it happened, but the loss of that one game didn't detract from the celebration of a season-long accomplishment.

natsfan1a said...

As previously noted, I'm not taking anything away from the season's accomplishments, which I thoroughly relished. Oh, bother. I think it's time for a little something (heads for kitchen, humming a little hum). :-)

UnkyD said...

Still, for me, The Hamels Confrontation has to be on the list, yet....

3on2out said...

Swami certainly hit on one of my most significant moments: the Lannan start to stop the bleeding after that debacle of the Braves coming back (when SS was the starter) from being down 9 (NINE!) zip. I think it was that game (and that series) that convinced me the baseball gods weren't just jerking me around. The Nats were for real! A more obscure moment (but for me profoundly significant) that Seamhead's recollection brought back in a rush was the Werth foul ball incident it Philadelphia. Many neutral fans thought he was being a jerk and certainly ALL the Phillie Phans thought so. I know it cost some sweet kid a souvenir but for me it spoke volumes. Jayson was saying, "I didn't come to DC just for the money...I came to help build a team to come back here and pound you into dust. I am not an expat Phillie. I am a National."

c715e5d6-9d22-11e1-a89a-000f20980440 said...

Re: Morse's at-bat. I was there, in 313, with my friends who arrived in the 6th(!) inning (their cat was under the neighbor's house, they wouldn't leave until the cat was safe, but they were NOT going to miss the clinch if it happened).

Yes, Morse was grinning ear-to-ear as the 35,000 fans sang Take on Me in their best stadium voices. Watching his face, I could see the professional Beast Mode (get a hit and start a rally) and the "Get the Party Started in Here" guy battle for control of the at-bat. You may draw your on conclusions regarding the outcome. But at that point, it didn't really matter: we had clinched.

Oh, and did anyone even notice that the Phillies post-game high fives had to be the lamest ever recorded in National's Park? (I realize that even if someone noticed, they probably didn't care ).

ArVAFan

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

Werth's hit in Philly after not throwing the ball in the stands was pretty super, too. It was a great regular season, filled with so many memories, culminating in winning the NL East title.
In early English-lit classes I had a hard time determining when a story was a comedy or a tragedy, but for a guy who has had season tickets for so long, yet doesn't seem to have gotten any joy from the season, seems like a tragedy to me.


That was a good one, too.
Tip on Tragedy/Comedy?
If it starts out confused and order is restored, it's a comedy. If it starts out orderly and then gets messed up, it's a tragedy.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

So, yeah, tragedy.

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

SJM, I might have spun Tigger's personality a little for rhetorical effect, there, I admit.

Oh, and Nats Lady is Lotte the otter.

natsfan1a said...

Ooh, those are good, too.

3on2out said...

Swami certainly hit on one of my most significant moments: the Lannan start to stop the bleeding after that debacle of the Braves coming back (when SS was the starter) from being down 9 (NINE!) zip. I think it was that game (and that series) that convinced me the baseball gods weren't just jerking me around. The Nats were for real! A more obscure moment (but for me profoundly significant) that Seamhead's recollection brought back in a rush was the Werth foul ball incident it Philadelphia. Many neutral fans thought he was being a jerk and certainly ALL the Phillie Phans thought so. I know it cost some sweet kid a souvenir but for me it spoke volumes. Jayson was saying, "I didn't come to DC just for the money...I came to help build a team to come back here and pound you into dust. I am not an expat Phillie. I am a National."
December 29, 2012 11:48 AM

A Strong Package for Gorse Hackage! said...

But how can we have a list with no Gio in it at all?
Gotta go top ten, somewhere.

baseballswami said...

Gio's face plant???? Gio making even JZim smile? Or Gio's complete game masterpiece? They are all sides of him. I hope no one lets the jester act fool them. He is a competitor. Many players came into their own this season. Lots of monthly and season end individual awards as well as team recognition. Lots if talent, personality, character and competitive fire.

natsfan1a said...

True that. I don't know about significant, but you can't beat the face-plant for sheer drama (scared the heck out of me at the time - I was way in the upper deck and didn't initially realize that he was okay). Heck, I liked it so much, I tried to replicate it myself not too long ago, using a curb instead of a pitcher's mound. I then told my husband that now I understood what it felt like to have the wind knocked out of you and need to stay down for a moment. Can't really recommend doing that, though, despite the insight.

natsfan1a said...

Hah. I think I owe swami a beverage.

baseballswami said...

Great minds often think alike :)

realdealnats said...

For me the two most thrilling scenes in 2012 were 1) Hamel plunking The Kid and then all that went into his stealing home, and 2) Werth's fake throw to the fans followed by at least a hundred foul balls driving the Philly fans crazy and then the payoff home run. Other scenes were hopeful and prideful and cathartic, but those two for sheer ongoing thrilling drama were, for me, tops.

NatsLady said...

Gio was really happy when he won his 2oth game.

natsfan1a said...

Late in the game, I was sitting in the stands with my phone at the ready to text my vote for Gio as player of the game. I'm like, why aren't they putting the choices on the scoreboard so we can vote? After a while, it dawned on me. Oh, yeah. Right. Duh. :-)

MicheleS said...

I think i would probably be Roo.

Gio's Complete Game at the top of the 9th with the "Lets Go Gio" chant and watching him take it in on the mound (one of the best games I ever attended, but behind Game 4). Later finding out that his Mom was right behind homeplate and a complete basket case also adds to it.

The Dodger Game that got us into the Playoffs. DRUUUUUUUU's top of the 9th getting through the heart of the order

baseballswami said...

You have to admit that it was particularly satisfying to clinch in front of the irrelevant Phil's in our park,, which we took back, their win meant nothing, no one cared about their handshakes. To see that, after all those games where we watched them call Nats Park Citizen's Bank South??? Truly priceless and gratifying. We need to keep them irrelevant and unwelcome. This needs to always be a hostile environment for them. I still burn over the opening day when I could not get a ticket and they booed Ryan getting his GG and Silver Slugger. Payback is hell.

JaneB said...

My elbow is in this picture! Right next to John Will.

I cried like a baby this game. We did lose but that night no one cared. We'd won enough up till that night for it to matter. The players threw a bunch of bubblegum out of the dugout in celebration and I have mine set up in my Personal National's Baseball Shrine/Museum in the work out room. We stayed for hours afterwards.

This is fun. I'm betting Werth's walk off has to be the number one moment.

baseballswami said...

This is making me all warm and fuzzy.

natsfan1a said...

I also enjoyed clinching the best record in baseball off them a couple of days later. If memory serves, that same game clinched a mediocre record for PHI. Ahhh, helping them clinch a losing record would have been even better but I'll take it. :-)

baseballswami said...

You have to admit that it was particularly satisfying to clinch in front of the irrelevant Phil's in our park,, which we took back, their win meant nothing, no one cared about their handshakes. To see that, after all those games where we watched them call Nats Park Citizen's Bank South??? Truly priceless and gratifying. We need to keep them irrelevant and unwelcome. This needs to always be a hostile environment for them. I still burn over the opening day when I could not get a ticket and they booed Ryan getting his GG and Silver Slugger. Payback is hell.
December 29, 2012 12:58 PM

Faraz Shaikh said...

JayB, nice touch with mentioning STL winning 3 of 5 in September. You do know that we also watched games last season, right?

Faraz Shaikh said...

*we=other NIs

Joe Seamhead said...

Nationals stadium will never be Citizens Bank South again, nor will it be anybody else's home away from home ever again. Never!

NatsLady said...

top walk-off wins of 2012.

http://www.bloguin.com/theoutsidecorner/

dcnatsfan89 said...

Zim's quote says it all. They didn't back into the division..they played great baseball all year long and as a result other teams had to play their best baseball in September in order to catch us, which clearly did not happen!

peric said...

that Tom Gorzelany could end up the #1 starter on a staff that has Yvonney Gallardo borders on stupid.

Well anyone who is stupid enough to say that isn't paying attention to injuries ... now are they?

Reminds me of when Natsjack failed to notice that Desmond was hurt and Espinosa was his replacement. Natsjack : lots of time asleep at the wheel.

peric said...

Michael Morse says his goal in '13 is to hit .330 hit 40 homers and drive in 120 runs.

baseballswami said...

But will he be doing that for the Nats???

JayB said...

That is just rude....

sjm308 said...

Jane - I envy your seats! Must be exciting all the time. I agree with a top 10 list and think we can supply #s 6-10 after Mark gets done with his 5. I feel certain that Werth's shot in game 4 is #1. This just makes me feel good about a very special season that obviously did not end the way we all wanted but still brought us great joy (eeyore excluded of course).

SonnyG10 said...

It was really fun reading through these significant moments. I think next season is going to be more fun, if we can stay relatively injury free. I'm sticking with my 106 win prediction, even if ALR does not re-sign with us.

baseballswami said...

It's going to be a roller coaster ride. Buckle up!

peric said...

Now NL EAST champs best record in baseball ROY Bryce Harper AND
NFC East champs ROY Robert Griffin III. Its been a very good year even if we
do go off the fiscal cliff.

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