WASHINGTON — Thursday was just like any other game day for Dusty Baker. The Nationals manager woke up, said his prayers and drank some coffee.
He did one other thing. “Then packed for Chicago,” he volunteered.
If the Nationals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the Division Series, they go on to Wrigley Field for Saturday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
As a manager, Baker has lost eight consecutive games with the opportunity to clinch a playoff round, most in baseball history.
The streak dates back to the Game 6 of the 2002 World Series when Baker’s San Francisco Giants led the Anaheim Angels by three games to two.
The Giants had a 5-0 lead in the seventh, and lost 6-5. They lost the seventh game, too.
That was Baker’s first — and last World Series.
After that season, Baker moved on to the Chicago Cubs and nearly had the Cubs in the World Series before the disastrous Game 6 of the NLCS when the Florida Marlins scored eight runs in the eighth inning, and then won Game 7.
Jump ahead nine years to 2012 when Baker was managing the Cincinnati Reds when they took a 2-0 lead over the Giants in the Division Series, then lost three straight.
In 2013, the Reds lost the wild-card game to Pittsburgh, and on Tuesday, with a chance to win the series at Dodger Stadium, lost 6-5.
“The guys are excited. I haven't really talked to them about it too much, but the shadows are a big deal. It's a big deal on both sides,” Baker said.
This is the first night game in the series, and Baker is happy about it.
“I mean, we're glad to have a night game. I don't think anybody's overjoyed to have to have a night game starting at 8, but that's TV; it kind of runs the world. You've got another hour of nervous energy to deal with,” Baker said. “But you know, the guys are poised and ready.”