The Nationals became the first Washington baseball team to reach the postseason in 79 years, joining the Cincinnati Reds as the first two clubs to clinch 2012 playoff spots.
The Nationals (91-58), who have the best record in Major League Baseball, defeated the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1 last night to clinch the National League East division title or one of the NL’s two wild-card spots.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a chance to play even one game in the playoffs,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who has been with the team since 2005, said in an on- field interview. “I can remember being out of it in July and August.”
Earlier in the day, the Reds (91-59) won 5-3 at the Chicago Cubs to become the first MLB team to assure itself of a postseason spot. The Reds lead the NL’s Central division.
The Senators failed to make the postseason for the following 27 years and moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season to become the Twins.
An expansion team, also called the Senators, never advanced beyond the regular season while playing 1961-71 in Washington. That club moved to Texas and became the Rangers.
There was no major league franchise in Washington from 1971 until 2005, when the Montreal Expos moved to the U.S. capital and became the Nationals.
Zimmerman, 27, who was wearing a shirt celebrating the team’s new “Natitude,” said the real goal is to win the NL East and advance in the playoffs.
“This is kind of the pre-party, I guess you could say,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have a bigger party in a few days, and an even bigger party later on in the year.”
The Reds played their second straight game without manager Dusty Baker, 63, who was hospitalized in Chicago after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat.
Cincinnati General Manager Walt Jocketty visited Baker in the hospital yesterday morning and talked to him after the playoff-clinching victory.
“He’s in good spirits,” Jocketty told reporters. “He’s happy the young guys came through.”
The Atlanta Braves (86-64), who did not play yesterday, lead in the race for the NL’s first wild card. The St. Louis Cardinals (80-70), who completed a three-game series sweep of the Houston Astros with a 5-4 win yesterday, have a 2 1/2-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, a three-game margin over the Dodgers (77-73) and a 4 1/2-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies for the second wild-card slot.
The Brewers (77-72) won 9-7 at the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday for their fifth straight win. The Phillies (76-74) pounded out 21 hits in a 16-1 victory at the New York Mets.
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