The Washington Nationals clinched the NL East crown on Monday night, but they did it with a little help from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nats dropped their series opener to the Phillies, 2-0, but the Bucs came through to defeat the Braves and hand the division to Washington.
The Nationals learned of the Atlanta loss as they came off the field in the middle of the ninth. The dugout instantly erupted into an impromptu celebration, with the players congratulating each other and manager Davey Johnson. The Nationals Park crowd joined in the celebration as well, with their first division title since the relocation in 2005 (and a franchise first since 1981, when the Expos won the NL East title in the second half of a strike-interrupted season).
There were still three at-bats left for the Nationals after the celebration, and Philadelphia's Phillippe Aumont finished the shutout in the bottom of the ninth. Starter Kyle Kendrick was dominant for the Phils, pitching an efficient and tidy seven shutout innings. Kendrick allowed just four hits and walked no one. He's been incredibly consistent for Charlie Manuel for most of the second half, and he finished that off in his final start on Monday.
A Darin Ruf triple off John Lannan in the top of the second produced the game's only runs. But that play was long forgotten by the time the champagne started flowing just before 10 p.m. ET in the Nationals clubhouse.