WASHINGTON – It was a terribly close shave.
Not the stunning, one-time wild card victory of the Washington Nationals against Josh Hader and the Milwaukee Brewers. Although that was also scarce. The shave in question was the one on Dave Martinez's face on Tuesday afternoon.
"I messed up," Washington's manager explained why his trademark Five O'Clock Shadow looked more like noon. "The guard on my hair trimmer was on one side and I just went, oh no, I had to lower her a bit."
In other words, it was not a playoff superstition that Martinez had adopted during his decade as a bank coach under Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay and Chicago. It was not a wildcard mood that the Nats skipper was thinking about. It was simply an accident. But Martinez, who preaches forever of staying in the here and now and winning 1
"Let's see what happens today," he said with a chuckle.
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The following happened: Ace Max Scherzer started despite a rocky end in an injury-related season, went out in one fell swoop and gave up two home races for the first six bouts as the Nats 3 lost -0. Stephen Strasburg, who came out of the bullpen for the first time since his freshman year, dominated three innings of relief. The Nationals went 3-1 in the eighth round and met all-star Reliever Hader. Three runs failed due to a heavy blow from 20-year-old Juan Soto (with the support of rookie Brewers outfielder Trent Grisham), who was too focused on Soto's single and allowed Anthony Rendon to start from the start). Oh, and closer to Washington Daniel Hudson scored a goalless ninth place at the end of Milwaukee's season, leaving everyone in DC for at least one night to forget how awful the Nats' bullpen was this season.
But perhaps most importantly, what happened was that, unlike what used to happen with his razor earlier in the day, Martinez did not mess it up. On the contrary.
On an unusually warm October night, Martinez pressed the right buttons. He picked up Scherzer after five innings and only 77 pitches and replaced him with a man who had never once been relieved in 242 professional appearances. In this fateful eighth inning he sent the hot rod Michael Taylor to Hader. Although Taylor spent most of the season with Double-A after being downgraded, and although he had veteran Ryan Zimmerman on the bench, Martinez liked that Taylor had twice reached the bottom in two career trips to Hader , Two batters after Taylor for the third time (after a pitch hit) took Martinez Zimmerman, who shot a two-out single in the middle that kept the inning alive and helped to set the stage for Soto's big hit.
This was the stage for Washington's second celebration of spraying liquids with goggles in less than a week's time. It's the first time that the Nationals have been banging bottles after their rise in the postseason.
"You can not really look at the past, you can not really look to the future," said Strasburg, when asked to compare the sentiment to that of two years ago, when he was in two starts against the Cubs dominated during a division series that Washington lost, it was the fourth playoff series to be defeated in four attempts. "As for the playoffs, especially the situation we are in, you can not really predict what's going to happen, you can not look into a crystal ball, you just have to enjoy the moment and be present."
In other words, let us see what happens today.
It was pretty much the motto of Martinez all year long. When the Nats played four games against the New York Mets and 12 games under 500, and Martinez was so close to being canned (if you believe everything the sportsmen say), he did not change his tune , When they recovered to play 57:24 in the next 81 games and take a commanding Joker advantage in September, he did not change his mood. When his team caught a cold on the track and nearly blew the wildcard lead, he did not change his attitude.
Let's see what happens today.
Because of what happened on Tuesday When Washington won its ninth consecutive game, Martinez and the Nationals have a date with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. And maybe Monday and Wednesday afterwards, depending on how well the division series develops.
Nationals celebrate their NL wildcard comeback win in the locker room with some champagne and beer.  "It's going to be tough," Nationals shortstop Trea Turner said of the imminent daunting task in which Washington will face a LA Juggernaut this season, who won a franchise record of 106 games to mark his current run of seven races to supplement in a row title. "But I think if there's a team that's ever ready to face a difficult situation, then it's just the thing."
When Turner sat on the podium and gave his comments after the match, he wore a helmet. It was not a batsman's helmet. Or a catcher helmet. Instead, it seemed to be the helmet of a football goalkeeper. It was made of white leather with red letters and bore the logo of Turner's Alma Mater (NC State). For months it has been sitting in its locker.
Turner said, his voice nasal from the glasses still strapped over his helmet and pinching his nose. "It's been around for a while."
Indeed, Turner says the lid has been in his cabin for about four months. Since then, the Nationals have been on the brink of extinction. On Tuesday, after his team had returned from the abyss against Hader and the Brewers, he finally decided to put the thing on. Why not?
"I have not planned anything," said Turner. "It just happened."
From all we know, Turner may have been a fever. Maybe it was the bubbling talk and the truth is that the helmet was a deliberate prop that was specifically procured for the purpose of opening bottles. Maybe Martinez also played along. Perhaps his thorough shave was not an accident, but an artificial hood that would shake things up and help the Nats exorcise their demons after the season. Because a wildcard win does not eliminate the sting of four NLDS losses. But it's a start.
"We swore we would not stop," said Martinez, summing up his team's Tuesday and season in one fell swoop. "I said the boys, I promise you, stay with them, do not stop, that will turn around, and it did, and here we are today."