That's all that's been guaranteed. A 163rd game. It is a playoff game, since all that means is a game played after the regular season that helps determine the champion. But given that the 1-game format is different than the rest of the playoffs, and only the non-division winners have to compete in this game, I can see why some prefer the term "play-in". In the past extra games used to break ties have been considered part of the regular season, while the playoffs were for series of games. But this is the new system, and we just have to deal with it.
For me, the only reason to downplay this accomplishment is because the Nats are in-line for a bigger one, the NL East title. The playoffs are nice, but with the team fighting for a #1 seed, the WC game really isn't on anyone's radar, even as a fall-back. You could see that last night. They knew they were very very likely to get into the playoffs a month ago. This just confirms that they didn't horribly go off the rails in the past 30 days. Congrats, handshakes all around, now let's go home so we can rest up for tomorrow's game.
How is everything else going? NL East is still in line to be locked up by month's end. Sorry doomsayers. Like I said the sweep meant nothing in terms of the NL East title. Not to say that was completely meaningless. It meant a lot for the Braves and the Wild Card, essentially locking that up for them. It also knocked the Nats back a game or two so that they are in a dogfight for home field, the Reds a mere half-game behind after encountering the exact same level of resistance from the Cubs that you'd expect. The Reds take on Dodgers next, who are basically on death watch for the playoffs. A opening game loss and a they might start packing it in. The Nats face the Brewers who have clawed their way back into contention, 2 1/2 games behind the Cardinals. That's a gap the Brewers can cover, though they can't afford more than a couple losses. They should be fired up.
How'd the Brewers do it? I think the key is understanding that they've always been good. They had a rough start in every way. Aramis had an ice cold April. Lucroy got hurt. The inevitable decline of Nyjer happened. Rickie Weeks was god awful. This all brought down what should have been an impressive offense. At the same time the starters struggled to pitch well early. All that led to the Brewers being in 5th place in the NL Central, 7 games out and 9 games under .500 before the end of May. Slowly this was all corrected. The starters got back on track, Aramis hit again, Norichika Aoki took over for Nyjer and hit well. Rickie Weeks wasn't terrible. But the pen never got on solid footing and after clawing back to 3 games under they went on a bad luck 1-9 stretch where they lost five 1-run games, including four games in a row lost by 1 run. (The 5th one was a game against the Nats where they blew a 7-3 lead after 7, 9-7 lead after 8). Another hole, another clawing out. Finally though the relief started evening out. Axford, Frankie Rodriguez, Livan weren't terrible. A kid named Kintzler is up and throwing pretty well. With no weaknesses left to speak of they've been unstoppable recently. 22-6 in the last month.
This will be a nice test for the Nats. The Brewers right now have the make-up, if not the record, of a playoff team. (unlike the Dodgers who can't hit even with their new players and aren't close to a playoff team with Kershaw and the rest injured). The 2nd and 4th games of the series are the most interesting. In game #2 Wily Peralta, a pretty good young pitcher who's been lights out recently, takes on Gio who is trying to win that 20th game and possibly a Cy Young. In game #4 Marco Estrada, a former Nat who has really come into his own for the Brewers, takes on ZNN. These should be like playoff games. Game #1 is a question mark between two decent pitchers, Shawn Marcum and E Jax, that haven't been pitching well recently. Game #3 is a throw away with Wang facing the Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo.
If the Nats want 100 wins and/of HFA, a win tonight is a must because I have a hard time seeing them winning on Sunday. Anything can happen sure but a loss tonight and I'm thinking you jump at a 2-2 split.