The number that is about to be on a lot of lips in our region is the so-called "magic" number that indicates how close a team is to winning its division or clinching a playoff berth. Our Washington Nationals are, for the first time at a late point in a season, leading the National League East and worthy of mentioning the magic number.
Any combination of wins by the Nats and losses by the Atlanta Braves adding up to 42 would mean that the Nats win the division and get a day off to rest before the postseason.
The incentive to win the division is stronger after the recent expansion of wild card teams from 1 to 2 and the addition of a one-game, "sudden-death" showdown between the two. Not only does the wild card team have to pitch their ace to survive the showdown, they will need to travel on 2 or 3 consecutive days depending on the location of their last regular season game.
A strong advantage will accrue to division winners and things look good for the Nats. Now.
As with life, the situation could deteriorate rapidly with an injury to a key player or an extended team pitching or hitting slump. Last year saw the complete collapse of both the Boston Red Sox and the Braves in the final month of the season and neither made the playoffs. Such a catastrophe could happen to the Nats due to their relatively youthful and inexperienced team.
But it is unlikely to happen for one of those reasons due to the highly qualified and talented management team of Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo and the veteran presence of Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoache, and Mark DeRosa. Both Johnson and Werth have World Series rings and both are highly respected by the players and management.
We are in for some exciting times this fall. The team may or may not win it all, but after so many inconsequential seasons it is finally coming together for Washington baseball. Even the mention of the magic number and the Nats is undeniable proof.