At long last, the Washington Nationals have qualified for the MLB postseason -- but there's still work to be done, as the team needs to avoid collapse to clinch the NL East and has incentive to hold out for the best record in the National League, as well.
As it stands today, the Nats have assured themselves at least a spot in the NL Wild Card game, the one-game playoff between the league's two best non-division winners to see who advances to the NLDS. They have a 5½ game lead in the NL East on the Atlanta Braves with 13 left to play, a solid, nearly insurmountable lead. But the real prize would be to have the best record in the NL.
The division-winner with the league's bet record will get to face off against the winner of the Wild Card game, a team that will have less rest than its opponent as they'll have needed to scrap for the Wild Card spot. They'll likely try to set up so that they have their best pitcher on the mound for the one-game playoff, which would likely prevent that ace from being able to pitch multiple NLDS games. The Nats currently have a half-game lead on the Cincinnati Reds. Whoever comes up short will likely face off against the San Francisco Giants.
Here's a look at the NL East Standings -- it's still a while before one can add a little "X" next to Washington in these standings, as their magic number is at eight.
NL East Standings
|New York||66||83||.442||25||Lost 5|
(updated 9.21.2012 at 8:42 AM CDT)
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