A Perfect Beginning

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The final day of the regular season brought with it a great baseball game, a tremendous crowd, and one huge surprise. The Nationals defeated the rival Phillies, 5-1, to capture the final accolade the regular season had to offer them, home field advantage throughout the 2012 Postseason. But the game also gave the fans a chance to revel in the magic of the season, and celebrate a victory many of them thought they would never see: Teddy winning a race.

The moment was one to behold, as the crowd went nuts upon the 26th President breaking the tape for the very first time. Teddy became a trending topic on Twitter all over the nation as word of his victory spread. But equally important to many fans was the question of what would happen to Teddy – and to the Nationals – after he finally won. While we will have to wait to see if Teddy gets an even bigger head until the first postseason game at Nationals Park next Wednesday, October 10, we found out immediately how the team would respond.

Teddy finally breaks the tape first.

It was only fitting that Ryan Zimmerman, the Face of the Franchise, who has lived through the thick and thin of the Nationals first eight seasons in Washington, would step to the plate as the first batter in the post-Teddy win era. With Washington trailing former Cy Young Award-winner Cliff Lee and the Phillies 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Zimmerman worked the count to 1-2, then drove the fifth pitch of the at-bat to the opposite field, down the right field line which Teddy had just raced along to victory. Domonic Brown ranged back on the ball, but could only watch as it cleared the wall and landed in the Nationals bullpen for a game-tying home run.

The next two batters, Michael Morse and Tyler Moore, both doubled, giving the Nationals a lead they would never relinquish on their way to their 98th Curly W of a truly charmed season.

“I think I said last year it was going to be tough to win without Teddy winning,” said Jayson Werth, an outspoken fan of Teddy Roosevelt. “But I guess he was waiting for us.”

Zimmerman, who wrote the part of the script a Hollywood producer could only dream of duplicating, spoke with a blend of sarcasm and relief when discussing the race.

“Yes, I’m excited Teddy won,” he deadpanned in closing. “I’m ecstatic.”

There could have been no better follow-up to Teddy’s win than Zimmerman’s home run.

Some Phillies fans on Twitter chirped that the post-race cheer was the loudest the Nationals fans have produced all season, but those who were in attendance on May 5 know otherwise. Nothing has matched the decibel levels following Jayson Werth ‘s three-run home run that landed in the Philadelphia bullpen, punctuating a blowout win during NATITUDE Weekend. Nevertheless, Wednesday’s cathartic release delivered an exclamation point at the end of a six-month season that has provided the same feeling for Nationals fans.

It was a fitting reminder that these are not the Washington Nationals of old. This is a team to be reckoned with, a team that knows how to win. The Nats victory also ensured that the Phillies would finish their first season since 2002 without a winning record, as they dropped to 81-81 with the consecutive losses to end the year.

Meanwhile, at 98-64, Washington finished the 2012 regular season with the best record in the 44-year history of the Nationals/Expos franchise. The club that improved from 59 wins in ’09, to 69 in ’10, to 80 victories last season has broken through for its first winning record, its first playoff berth, its first National League East title and now, to punctuate it all, the best record in Major League Baseball.

You could call it a perfect ending, except that it’s really only the beginning.

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