Nats on verge of spot in playoffs after 90th win

Nats on verge of spot in playoffs after 90th win

Nats on verge of spot in playoffs after 90th win
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals need one more victory to clinch a playoff spot after they edged the Dodgers, 3-1, in the first game of a doubleheader at Nationals Park on Wednesday afternoon.

The Nationals won their 90th game, and it marked the seventh time that manager Davey Johnson guided a team to 90 victories in a season. The last one came in 1997, when he was manager of the Orioles.

But that doesn't mean much to Johnson. He is more concerned with the magic number to win the National League East, which stood at nine entering the second game of the doubleheader.

"The only thing that means anything to me is when we clinch the [division]. That's the only thing I'm concerned with," Johnson said. "It's starting at nine. That's good. We are going to get it down to eight. Whatever number that is, it will be my favorite number."

The Nationals were able to win their 90th because right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was solid, allowing one run in six innings. Zimmermann was able to win his 11th game on seven days' rest.

The Dodgers had Zimmermann on the ropes during the first three innings. Their biggest chance to score at least more than one run came in the second inning.

The Dodgers had runners on first and third with one out, but Luis Cruz popped out to catcher Kurt Suzuki for the second out. After Shane Victorino stole second base and A.J. Ellis was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Aaron Harang grounded to shortstop Ian Desmond for an inning-ending forceout.

Los Angles eventually scored its only run in the third inning, when Andre Ethier came home on a single by Hanley Ramirez.

"The first couple of innings, I was coming on [seven] days' rest. I was a little out of sync," Zimmermann said. "The last three innings, I was much better. I was able to control everything. It's definitely good to get a win. The infield did a good job, played great defense."

The great defense came from second baseman Danny Espinosa and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Both players are experiencing shoulder discomfort, but that didn't stop them from making great plays.

In the fifth inning, Espinosa and Zimmerman made diving plays off the bats of Ethier and Matt Kemp, respectively. An inning later, Espinosa made another diving play off the bat of Victorino.

"They guys are making diving plays. They are diving all over the place behind me. It's good to see," Zimmermann said. "I'm glad I have the guys behind me that I do."

The score was tied at 1 when the Nationals took the lead in the fifth inning against Harang. Bryce Harper led off with a triple, his eighth of the season, and then scored on a groundout by Zimmerman.

Left-hander Paco Rodriguez was on the mound when Washington scored its third run an inning later. With runners on first and third and one out, Tyler Moore came in as a pinch-hitter and grounded out to second baseman Mark Ellis, but Desmond scored on the play.

"The game tells me we can score without hitting home runs," Johnson said. "That's what the [media] was worried about. We took care of that today."

"It's really a lot of the same," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "It's basically a 3-1 game, right? They get their run, we get back in it, they get two chances to get an easy run."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.