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Big League Stew

Nationals clinch playoff spot, first for D.C. team since 1933

David Brown
Big League Stew

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(AP)

The Washington Nationals are in the playoffs! They've clinched the first postseason spot for a D.C. team since the long-dormant Senators went to the World Series in 1933! Wow!

Meh, no biggie, manager Davey Johnson says.

''That was fun, but it's not what I had my eye on,'' [he]  said. ''I don't want this.''

The Nats beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1 on Thursday night, getting another strong performance by left-hander Ross Detwiler, plus an RBI double from slugger Ryan Zimmerman. Drew Storen struck out Hanley Ramirez for the save, setting off fireworks at Nationals Park and prompting much happiness in an excited crowd of 30,359. Next stop, the playoffs, where the franchise hasn't been since 1981 — when the Montreal Expos lost in the NLCS.

And the Nats did celebrate, only with restraint. They had a champagne toast, though teen sensation (and practicing Mormon) Bryce Harper even dialed it down from that.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post says Johnson had to cajoled into celebrating:

He was in his office, saying good night to his wife, Susan. Players dragged him into the clubhouse, where a long table had been set up. Bottles of Korbel and empty flutes had been placed on top. Every player got a glass. "Of course," right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said in reference to the team's underage outfielder, "Bryce had water."

His team encouraged Johnson to speak, and the 69-year-old manager, back in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, responded not with a valedictory, but a rallying cry.

"We ain't done yet," Johnson said.

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(AP)

That's pretty much what I'd say, too, and it might even be how I'd feel. But let's not downplay this too much. Winning a division in baseball is just about the toughest thing a team can do in sports. Winning a Stanley Cup is tougher. That's a grind. But that's the only one. Baseball's season is so long — 162 games, not including spring training — and so many things can go wrong, it's such an accomplishment of attrition, that a division title should be met with both relief and joy.

It wasn't that long ago that a playoff spot was a pipe dream:

The Nationals lost more than 100 games in both 2008 and 2009, allowing them to draft pitcher Stephen Strasburg and Harper.

Of course the Nats want to win the World Series. Who wouldn't? But once they start, the playoffs are a lottery by comparison. Timing. Guesswork. Much more luck is involved.

Not that Davey Johnson is doing the wrong thing. And he's been ahead of the curve on the Nats' success. I just hope he remembers to enjoy this on the inside. Because it's a heck of a thing his team has done.

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