By this point, you have likely already been made aware of the Washington Nationals’ (91-58) series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers last night and the playoff implications surrounding said win. But because this is the first time the nation’s capital has been able to express what follows in 79 years, it bears repeating – the Nationals are officially headed to the postseason.
As exciting as the news is, the Nationals still have some games to win before the real celebration begins. Last night’s win clinched a Wild Card berth and as manager Davey Johnson has made clear on numerous occasions, they will settle for nothing less than a division title.
“That was fun but it’s not what I had my eye on,” Johnson said, “It’s a nice step to get here, but every manager that’s leading a division, that’s the only thing that matters – winning your division.”
The team’s magic number for clinching the National League East still sits at eight. In order to chip away at it they will need to take a few games from the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers during the four-game series that begins tonight when Brewers right-hander Shaun Marcum takes on Nationals right-hander Edwin Jackson.
Tonight will mark Marcum’s (5-4, 3.91 ERA) sixth start since returning from a 15-day disabled list stint that sidelined the veteran for nearly two months with elbow tightness. In the five starts since returning from injury, Marcum is 0-1 with a 5.70 ERA. He has received four straight no-decisions, the most recent of which came in a 9-6 win over the New York Mets. Marcum managed to pitch just four innings in the outing, allowing the Mets to jump out to an early lead with four runs on seven hits and two walks.
But Marcum’s performance is unlikely to stymie a Brewers team that has won five games in a row and 23 of their last 29, pulling to within 2 1/2 games of the St. Louis Cardinals and the second NL Wild Card.
In his only other career start against the Nationals, Marcum struck out 11 batters through seven innings while leading the Toronto Blue Jays to a 7-3 victory.
The Nationals have played the Brewers well this year, taking three of the four games played at Miller Park just after the All-Star break. One of those wins was credited to Jackson (9-10, 3.89 ERA), who tossed seven scoreless innings on July 26, giving up eight hits and a walk while striking out four in the Nationals’ 8-2 rout of the Brewers.
Jackson, however, has struggled lately. Through three starts in September, he is 1-1 with a 7.47 ERA after having allowed 14 runs in 15 2/3 innings. His last outing, a four-run 5 1/3 innings effort, resulted in a no-decision in last Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Braves. But with a win tonight, Jackson can become the fifth Nationals starter to reach double digits in the win column this year.
In six career starts against the Brewers, Jackson is 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA through 39 innings pitched.
There will be several players to watch in tonight’s game. Brewers rookie right-fielder Norichika Aoki is currently enjoying a 10-game hitting streak, his fourth streak of the season that has gone 10 or more games. Meanwhile, Ian Desmond will bring a .380 batting average and 12 RBIs through his last 20 games to the plate in hopes of plating a few runs for the Nationals.