What to Watch for: 9.29.13

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Washington Nationals (86-75) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (80-81)

RHP Tanner Roark (7-1, 1.74) vs. LHP Wade Miley (10-10, 3.63) 

The visiting clubhouse at Chase Field was light and boisterous on Sunday, the final day of the 2013 regular season. A half-dozen regular starters, none of whom were penciled into the lineup for the season finale, took in breakfast while they absorbed the first slate of NFL games on the RedZone channel. Hoots and hollers sprung up from the back rooms, where a season-long challenge was determined with a final weigh-in. And for the last time, Davey Johnson huddled with the media in his office, in uniform for one final game.

In typical Davey fashion, he refused to let the moment become too sentimental.

“It’s not like I’m dying tomorrow,” he quipped, after a particularly overwrought question about what it all meant.

He did allow himself a moment of reflection, though, about his five decades in the game.

“I feel melancholy, because this is a great group of guys, a great organization, and the city that made me love baseball, with the Senators,” he said. “My life has come full circle.”

Once a bat boy for the original Nationals, Johnson helped return baseball glory to Washington by guiding the 2012 club to the first postseason in The District since 1933. But despite repeated attempts to cajole his favorite moment from the past two-and-a-half seasons, Johnson played his cards close to the vest.

“Everywhere I go, my goal is always to make the team better,” he explained, saying that he would leave the decision on Washington’s next skipper to the man who appointed him, Mike Rizzo. “Well, the last manager he hired did a good job. I hope.”

Johnson will head back to D.C., then home to Florida, where he says his golf group is already set for Wednesday. He has joked since Spring Training about his impending vacation to Bora Bora, and reiterated that he has no desire to be a Major League manager next season. But the charm of the game still pulls at him.

“When you love the game as much as I love this game, with the competition, you just enjoy it,” he said.

Johnson will return as a senior advisor to Rizzo next season, but what about other opportunities the game might afford him?

“I never say never to anything, I’m always open for new challenges,” he said. “Heck, I’ve already got a job to manage in the Florida Collegiate Summer League next summer.”

And so, just like the season itself, while Davey’s career as manager of the Nationals comes to a close, it does not really end. After all, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in about 19 weeks.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Jeff Kobernus LF

2. Anthony Rendon 2B

3. Scott Hairston RF

4. Tyler Moore 1B

5. Zach Walters SS

6. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

7. Jhonatan Solano C

8. Eury Perez CF

9. Tanner Roark RHP

FINISHING STRONG

Dating to August 9, Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record (32-15, .680). Over the same span, Washington paces the National League in runs scored (235) and run differential (+70).

3B-SPAN

Denard Span enters the final day of the regular season leading MLB with a career-high 11 triples. No D.C.-based big leaguer has ever led MLB in triples, although 3B Howie Shanks (18 in 1921) and SS Joe Cassidy (19 in 1904) did tie for the MLB lead in three-baggers. In 2009 with the Twins, Span tied Jacoby Ellsbury for the AL lead with 10 triples.

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

The Nationals are 105-94 on the road under Davey Johnson. The corresponding .528 road win percentage in that span ranks third in MLB behind only Texas (.562) and Los Angeles (NL) (.534).

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