The fireworks exploded, the crowd roared and the scoreboard announced that the Washington Nationals had clinched a postseason berth for the first time in 79 years after the Nats' 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night at Nationals Park.
The Nats chose not to embrace the celebration in full, because it's not the one they've been waiting for.
Instead, the players trotted out to the pitchers' mound to form a congratulatory handshake line as they typically do after a victory. Maybe their smiles were a little broader.
But in the clubhouse, there was only a mild celebration, which included a small champagne toast. A larger celebration will occur only if and when the Nats capture the National League East title.
"It's been a long time since we had a chance to even play a game in the playoffs," Ryan Zimmerman said. "This is a huge step, but we have bigger goals. We have a few more [wins to earn] before we can really celebrate. ... This is kind of the pre-party, you can say. Hopefully, we have a bigger party in a few days and an even bigger party [later]."
In the third inning, Bryce Harper scored on Zimmerman's RBI double, and a wild pitch by Dodgers starter Chris Capuano eventually allowed Zimmerman to score. Danny Espinosa doubled home Ian Desmond in the fourth inning, took third on a throwing error and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Kurt Suzuki.
That was all the scoring the Nats needed for starting pitcher Ross Detwiler, who pitched six solid innings and held Los Angeles to one run on three hits with a walk and five strikeouts. With the win, Detwiler's record improved to 10-6, and he lowered his ERA to 3.10. Since Aug. 12, he hasn't allowed more than three runs in any game.
Currently, the Nats are tied with the Cincinnati Reds for home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Thanks to the National League's win in the All-Star Game this summer, they automatically get the extra home game in the World Series, which is a best-of-seven championship series.
A Washington baseball team hasn't made the postseason since 1933, when the Senators won the American League with 99 wins. They came up short, losing the World Series that year in five games to the New York Giants.