Glory be! The city of Washington has not one, but two teams in the post-season playoffs—the Mystics of the WNBA and the Nationals in Major League Baseball.
The Mystics are locked up 1-1 with Connecticut, while the Nationals now prepare to take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
The Nats’ win in the National League Wild Card Game Tuesday proved how fickle the baseball gods can be. In the fateful eighth inning, when Washington scored three runs, Milwaukee reliever Josh Hader had pinch hitter Ryan Zimmerman completely fooled with an inside fastball that snapped the former University of Virginia star’s bat in two.
But the bloop that resulted was hit just hard enough to make it over the infield to keep the inning alive. An error on a single by Juan Soto would propel the Nats into the division series.
When Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell put Hader in for a two-inning save, I figured Washington had a chance to turn around a 3-1 deficit. I watched Hader blow a save in the Brewers’ final series of the season, a save that would have put Milwaukee into a tie with St. Louis and forced a Monday playoff for the Central Division title.
Hader can be wild and that was his undoing Tuesday.
You have to give the Nationals credit. They could have quit back in May when they were 12 games below .500, but they didn’t. They played good ball the final two-thirds of the season.
But the Nats will now have their hands full with the Dodgers, who won 106 games this year. Both teams have excellent starters, but neither has a reliable closer. Kenley Jensen has been suspect for the Dodgers all season.
Apparently, Nats manager Dave Martinez is going with Daniel Hudson as his closer. He pitched a quality ninth inning Tuesday.
Tuesday was a good night for Virginia players. Hudson grew up in the Roanoke area and played at Old Dominion University. Zimmerman, a native of the Tidewater area, is, of course, a Wahoo alumnus.
A third Virginia-born major-leaguer, Justin Verlander from Goochland, will also be a big part of the playoffs. With 21 wins already, the Houston Astros starter, who also played at Old Dominion, is a prime candidate for the American League Cy Young Award.
I’ll pull for the Nats unless they play the Atlanta Braves. I’ve been a Braves fan since the days of Henry Aaron, Phil Niekro and Chief Knockahoma. I’m not about to turn away now.
While we’re talking about Washington, we should mention the Redskins.
It is Thursday and Jay Gruden is still in Washington. After an 0-4 start and a miserable showing against the New York Giants on Sunday, there are those who thought the Redskins’ head coach would be gone by now.
It has been a miserable beginning to what many Redskins fans concede could be a miserable season. Still, the diehards hang on.
“I’m not going to panic until we’re 0-15,” one fan remarked the other day.
Hopefully that won’t happen, but the situation is not likely to get any better this Sunday when the Skins host unbeaten New England. If Washington beats Tom Brady & Co., it could drive every sports bookie in America into bankruptcy.
But what did fans—and Gruden—expect? The team, as I said in a preseason column, started the season with no legitimate quarterback. Colt McCoy, now injured, has always been a backup signal-caller, as has Case Keenum for much of his career.
Rookie Dwayne Haskins, who was thrown into the fire late in the first half Sunday, hopefully is the quarterback of the future, but he will have a tough row to hoe behind a not-so-good offensive line.
So, the Redskins, with Trent Williams still holding out, will likely step onto the field as the underdog in every game this season unless Gruden and Haskins pull off a miracle. And miracles are hard to come by in the NFL, unless you’re the Dallas Cowboys.
The Redskins ineptness is prime fodder for Cowboys fans in this area. Last week, I saw a little boy wearing a Redskins shirt as he walked down the street with his father. A guy wearing a Cowboy jersey jokingly threatened to call social services.
“The way Washington is playing, taking a child out in public wearing a Redskin jersey is akin to child abuse,” the man said.
So goes the annual battle between the Cowboys and the Redskins—on the field and in the stands.