WASHINGTON — With a win in Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Phillies, the Nationals could clinch a wild-card berth.
They'll need some help, though. A playoff berth is only secured if the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs. That game is slated to start at the same time as the Nationals do in Washington. There will be plenty of scoreboard-watching in Nationals Park on Tuesday night.
Joe Ross, after having pitched four innings earlier Tuesday, won't be in the game, so his perspective from the dugout will be a bit different.
"It's exciting, obviously," Ross said. "Being in the dugout, I feel like I get to enjoy it a little bit more."
Recent history bodes well for Washington. Since 2018, the Nationals have swept four consecutive doubleheaders, per Elias Sports Bureau. The Nationals are one of two teams with a current streak of four consecutive doubleheader sweeps. The last team to sweep five in a row was the 1990 Pirates.
Although it's just another game for the players, they are acutely aware of what's at stake. But they're used to playing games under pressure, especially with the way the season started.
"Shoot, we've been having dress rehearsals for the playoffs since like May," Sean Doolittle said. "No, I'm being serious. We had our backs so far up against the wall so early in the season, I really feel like we've kind of played out every possible scenario that might come up."
Tuesday night in Washington, one scenario sends the Nationals to the playoffs and one makes them wait at least another day.
Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, something has got to give. The Pirates have been out of contention for quite some time and have lost nine in a row, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs to start the skid. The Cubs, losers of six in a row in their own right, are narrowly hanging onto their playoff hopes. The Cubs have won six in a row and nine out of 10 against the Pirates.
It's all just what-ifs before gametime. But, once the nightcap's first pitch is thrown, it'll be time to play the game at hand and while also following along with happening a few hours northwest in Pittsburgh.
"We've got to take care of business," Trea Turner said.
The Nationals will attempt to just that Tuesday night starting at 7:05.
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