Nats gathering intel for potential NLCS vs. LA

Nats gathering intel for potential NLCS vs. LA

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have treated this series with the Dodgers as a chance to gain intel, gathering enough information about their opponent and storing it in case it can be put to use in the future. Conversely, Washington has tried to reveal as little of itself to Los Angeles as possible.

So even though the Nats have dropped the first two games, including a 3-2 loss Saturday afternoon, it's tough to figure out how much to take away from two games started by pitchers who almost certainly will not factor into their postseason rotation.

Right-hander Edwin Jackson was hit hard Friday night, and while he might factor into the bullpen, he is not one of the Nats' top four starters, and A.J. Cole was inserted into the rotation for a spot start Saturday.

"That's some consolation," manager Dusty Baker said. "Still, I'm glad that we have faced probably the stronger side of their bullpen, which we haven't seen in a long time."

In this potential postseason preview, the Nationals will miss out on Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish, just as the Dodgers will not face off against Max Scherzer or Gio Gonzalez. But Baker has been happy to get matchups he could see late in games like when the Dodgers brought in Tony Watson to face pinch-hitter Adam Lind in the eighth inning and Watson stayed in the game to retire another tough lefty in Daniel Murphy.

Puig's grab keeps Dodgers ahead

Meanwhile, the Nationals have only received one inning from their top three relievers. Sean Doolittle and Brandon Kintzler have not pitched in this series and Ryan Madson tossed a scoreless ninth inning Saturday.

It's a small game of chess and a way the Nationals are trying to gain an advantage from this late-season matchup between the teams with the top two records in the National League. They wouldn't meet in the postseason until the NL Championship Series.

"As far as gathering intel, that is nice, but if the season ends today, we play the Cubs first," Murphy said. "So if I see them again, I'm sure both of our ballclubs will be pretty excited about it."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.