Nationals beat Phillies to earn home-field advantage throughout playoffs

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Washington will open postseason at wild-card game winner Sunday

In previous years the warm ovation that washed over Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in the eighth inning on Wednesday afternoon would have signaled an end to the season. This time it is only the beginning.

Zimmerman homered to lead off the fourth inning and Tyler Moore and Michael Morse followed with their own later in the game as Washington ended the regular season with a 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park.

The National League East champs clinched at worst a tie for the best record in baseball but are guaranteed the No. 1 seed in the NL Division Series beginning on Sunday. They will open with two games on the road at either Atlanta or St. Louis. The Nats finished with a 98-64 record and are just the fourth team since 2006 to win at least 98 in a season.

Playoff picture
» The Nationals will play either the St. Louis Cardinals or the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series beginning Sunday.
» Those two teams will play at 5:07 p.m. on Friday at Turner Field in Atlanta with the winner advancing. Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA) will pitch for the Braves, and Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) will go for the Cardinals.
» Washington was 10-8 against Atlanta and 4-3 against the Cardinals in 2012. But the Nats were swept by the Braves early in September and lost two of three in St. Louis last weekend.

Washington fell behind early after a sacrifice fly by the Phillies in the third inning. But Zimmerman led off the fourth with his homer and Moore later doubled in a run in that frame. Moore added a solo homer in the sixth, his 10th of the season in primarily a bench role, and Morse capped things with a two-run blast in the eighth.

That hit came moments after Zimmerman walked and was replaced by rookie Bryce Harper as a pinch runner. The crowd rose for an ovation, and Zimmerman doffed his cap in response. Morse, who tweaked his left hamstring in the excitement following his homer, had to answer a curtain call of his own after putting his club up 5-1 with a liner into the first row of seats above the right-field scoreboard.

"We haven't really had a chance to sit back and think about [the postseason]," Zimmerman said. "It's exciting and it's a lot better to have games to play. Once we're finally done, however far we make it, hopefully we go all the way and we can sit back and look at it. But for us to sit back and take it all in right now. ... You don't want to do that."

The victory marked a nice rebound for starter Edwin Jackson, who was pummeled last Saturday in St. Louis with nine runs allowed in just 11Ú3 innings, eight of them earned. He pitched 62Ú3 innings against Philadelphia on Wednesday with just the one run allowed, a walk, six hits and six strikeouts. That was enough to outlast Philadelphia starter Cliff Lee (six innings, three runs) and earn his 10th win of the season. All five of Washington's main starting pitchers finished with double-digit wins this season.

"It definitely helps. You keep the momentum in your favor," Jackson said about shaking off the dismal outing in St. Louis. "But at the end of the day, positive or not positive, you have to be mentally ready to withstand what we're about to see."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner