Chain Reactions: Nats Baseball's Best; Skins Must Protect Their House

Greg Fiume - Getty Images

The Nationals own baseball's best record and clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs, Teddy finally WINS, and the 'Skins need a homefield advantage of their own.

Does anything get any bigger than the Nationals earning the top seed and home field advantage in the playoffs? How about RGIII's first ever come-from-behind win?

Well, actually, it does. The National nightmare is finally over. The longest losing streak in town is finished, as Teddy Roosevelt finally won a Presidents Race Thursday afternoon in the team's regular season finale.

It ended the mascot's 525-race losing streak. (Stat via Let Teddy Win, of course.)

The win was long overdue that it had become cruel and disrespectful to the great President's memory.

"I am so glad Teddy won, so we can stop talking about Teddy. People get more excited for a mascot race than a game," Zimmerman said, before adding in a voice drenched with sarcasm: "Yes, I'm excited Teddy won. I'm ecstatic."

So what's next for the Presidents Races? Will Teddy suddenly go on a 525-race winning streak? What will the Let Teddy Win guy do with his life now? So many questions and so few answers. I guess we will just need to keep following the Nats to find out (well played, gameday ops crew).

In more serious business, this week's "Chain Reactions" deals with the Nats being officially the best in baseball, so we look at what is right about this team heading into the postseason, as well as the potential pitfalls. Plus, the 'Skins look to find an actual homefield advantage Sunday against the Falcons.

Nats Ready for Post Season

The MLB playoffs have been littered with teams that were magnificent in the regular season, but failed to finish the task of winning the World Series. This is life in the postseason, where it is truly a new season.

Last year, the St. Louis Cardinals were hardly a remarkable team in the regular season, and they are now the World Champions. Plus, the addition of the one and done Wild Card game changes the entire dynamic of the postseason.

Hopefully the days of rest will not turn to rust for the Nationals.

"I mean, once you get in, you're in, no matter how yet get there," said Jayson Werth, one of the few Nationals with significant playoff experience. "From there you need to be good, you need to be lucky, you've got to show up. It's not easy. Winning's not easy. Winning the whole thing is tough. It takes a lot. We're in good position. We've come this far and we're here. We've got a chance."

Offensively, the Nationals started off slow this season, but have quickly turned into one of baseball's best. They finished the season 10th in the majors in runs scored, 9th in batting average, and 6th in slugging percentage. Having healthy hitters has played a big role in that, with Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Ian Desmond, and Jayson Werth all getting well after missing some time.

Plus, Bryce Harper is instant energy at the two spot and Werth, for all his faults and his still-large contract, has done an excellent job atop the order.

You couple that offense with a staff that is sturdy even without Stephen Strasburg and you have yourself a team that should be confident it can win the World Series. In Game 1 against the Braves or Cardinals Sunday, they will send out 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez. In Game 2, Jordan Zimmermann who leads the team in quality starts (24). Drew Storen has been impressive of late while Tyler Clippard has struggled. Will they go back to their former roles?

The Nationals are the worst when it comes to holding runners, and of course this is new territory for the majority of this roster. Will the players be able to handle the moment?

We do know skipper Davey Johnson will once again be an asset, because he has been there and done that many, many times before this time of year. So what does all this mean for the newcomer Nats? I have no idea, but it certainly beats anything we have watched before.

Redskins Homefield Disadvantage

The Redskins will try once again this weekend to establish a home field advantage. It is something they have been unable to do for far too long. They have lost 7 straight at FedEx Field including last year's pathetic six straight home losses to end the 2011 season

"We just haven’t played as well at home as we need to," said linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "Hopefully we can right the ship this weekend."

So what gives? Are fans not loud enough? Are they not getting in the stadium soon enough?

How about this theory for you: The team simply has not been good for many of its years at FedEx Field, and that's why the home record stinks. If you win at home, the fans will be louder and become a factor again. Will FedEx ever be RFK? No, never, but it does not have to be.

How good has this team been so far? Offensively, really good. They've scored the most points through the first four weeks since the NFC East-winning squad of 1999. Defensively, they've been a big-time disappointment, mostly because the sorry state of the secondary. The pass rush needs to be better, too. They have, fortunately, been stout against the run.

The thing I like about this .500 team so far is easy to pinpoint: they have that guy at quarterback, Robert Griffin III. He makes anything possible every single Sunday. Sure, it is early in the process, but he has already surpassed the hype in the first month of the regular season.

He engineered a game-winning drive on the road last week and is 2-1 in road games. He makes plays and makes players around him better. He is a leader, and he makes really cool commercials like Peyton Manning. He also gets calls, as predicted in this column last week. Thanks regular referees!

This weekend will not be easy. Atlanta has a QB playing at a really high level in Matt Ryan, and they have Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez to throw to and, as mentioned above, the 'Skins can't cover.

But this is the RGIII Era in DC and all things seem possible, even a home win over an undefeated team. I just hope the Nats and 'Skins game times do not overlap.

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