The Washington Nationals are having a magical season. And with a few more wins, they can reach heights not only unexpected from this season, but unprecedented in the history of the franchise and of Washington D.C.
Last night, the first-place Nationals beat the second-place Atlanta Braves in 13 innings, 5-4. Braves second baseman Dan Uggla froze on a groundball allowing Danny Espinosa to score the winning run and give the Nats a win that padded their division lead to six games.
With the Phillies and Marlins already folding up their tents for the season and the Mets stumbling with them, the Braves are the only team that has a chance to catch the Nationals. And like Uggla fielding the grounder, the Braves are blowing their best chance to catch them head to head.
Barring a collapse, the Nationals are looking like the eventual National League East Champions. And there are some numbers they are approaching that would make this season extra special.
The first number is six. With six more wins, the Nationals will have clinched a winning season. With 40 games left, six more wins is a foregone conclusion even with a last place team, but do not discount the significance of a winning season in Washington.
This would be the first winning team the Nationals will have fielded since arriving from Montreal before the 2005 season. They came close that first season, finishing an even .500. And last year they ended one game under .500.
Remember, this was a team that in 2008 lost 102 games and then lost 103 in 2009. They were a 93 loss team in 2010. To turn that around so quickly is a credit to the organization and should finally give fans in Washington something to cheer about.
It would also be the first winning season for a Washington D.C. baseball team since the 1969 Senators. 43 years is a long time to wait for a winning team, even if there was no baseball in D.C for three decades.
The next big number is 31. Any combination of Nationals wins and Dodgers losses that equal 31 will give the Nationals a Wild Card spot. Granted, the goal of the Nationals should be the division. Getting a spot at the playoff table is quite an accomplishment for a team that was considered to be a joke not too long ago.
The division magic number is 35. Any combination of Nationals wins and Braves losses that equals 35 will crown Washington with the title. A Nats win tonight would cut it down to 33, as in 1933, the last time the city of Washington ever hosted a postseason game.
Another magical number could come about if the Nationals go 20-20 the rest of the way. Simply playing .500 ball for the rest of the season would give the Nationals a 96-66 record.
No Washington team has ever won more than 95 games in a season. And the franchise, dating back to Montreal, has never won more than 95 either. So going 20-20 will make this the greatest team in the franchise's and city's history.
And finally the last great number is 24. If the Nationals finish the season winning 24 of their last 40 games, they will be the first 100 game winner in the team and city's history. To go from 100 losses in 2009 to 100 wins in 2012 would be a remarkable achievement.
But the Nationals might have other goals on their mind. 24 could also refer to 1924, the only World Series Champion the city of Washington has ever had.
No doubt the Nationals are thinking about the number two, as in the World Series title number two for Washington.