Nats lock up NL home-field edge by topping Phils

Nats lock up NL home-field edge by topping Phils

Nats lock up NL home-field edge by topping Phils
WASHINGTON -- For more than a week, manager Davey Johnson kept saying he wanted right-hander Edwin Jackson to get his 10th victory of the season, and Jackson did just that as the Nationals secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by defeating the Phillies, 5-1, at Nationals Park on Wednesday afternoon.

With the victory, the Nationals finished the regular season with a 98-64 record, which will at least equal the best record in the Major Leagues, pending Cincinnati's result later in the evening. But the Nationals hold the edge over Cincinnati head to head in the National League, ensuring the home-field edge in the playoffs.

The Nationals will play the winner of Friday's NL Wild Card game between the Braves and Cardinals when the Division Series opens in either Atlanta or St. Louis on Sunday.

"It's quite an accomplishment [to have the best record]," Ryan Zimmerman said. "Obviously, winning the division was a goal, and now we have done that. And now we have a chance to go do some stuff in the playoffs. This is a great season, a great team, a good group of guys. We have accomplished a lot that we should be proud of, but we have a lot more to accomplish, hopefully."

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is not surprised the Nationals are going to the postseason.

"They had a good year," he said. "They're a talented team. Just playing against them for a while, you know they're talented. You always knew if they put it together and found some pitching ... and they've had the opportunity to have some big Draft picks, and those guys have made it up to the big leagues, and it's all come together for them. So that's great for them. "

Zimmerman said that he doesn't have a preference as far as which team he would want to face in the Division Series.

"[The playoffs are] where the good teams are," he said. "There is really not a weak team. Anyone we play, we have to play our best baseball to win."

Washington now has five starting pitchers who have won at least 10 games, and it took five starts for Jackson to reach that number. His last victory before Wednesday was Sept. 4 against the Cubs. In between victories, the Nationals lost all four games, with Jackson getting two no-decisions.

Jackson wasn't just thinking about his latest accomplishment.

"This is a positive win for our team," Jackson said. "We finished strong. We had a lot of guys who contributed to the win. It's just a positive outcome, and we have a positive direction heading into the postseason."

On Wednesday, Jackson lasted 6 2/3 innings and allowed one run on six hits. He started cramping up toward the end of his outing and he told bench coach Randy Knorr to have a reliever ready in case the injury got worse.

"Edwin has been great," Zimmerman said. "He has been -- for the most part -- pretty consistent all year, but a lot of times [the media] don't get to see that he helped a lot of these young guys. He has been a good pitcher for a long time in this league. It's not easy to do that. He has been around a while and has helped this team so much with the young guys, just teaching them how to be consistent, how to go out there every fifth day and do their job."

The one run scored against Jackson came on a sacrifice fly by Darin Ruf in the fourth inning.

But Washington would tie the score and then take the lead in the bottom of the inning against left-hander Cliff Lee. Zimmerman led off and hit a home run over the right-field wall to tie the score at 1. Two batters later, Tyler Moore doubled to left field, scoring Michael Morse.

Two innings later, Moore hit a solo home run over the left-field wall to make it a three-run game. It was Moore's 10th home run of the season, making him the seventh player on the Nationals' roster to reach the double-digit mark in home runs.

"I didn't expect to have [10 home runs] this year, because I was coming off the bench and stuff," Moore said. "I was fortunate to get a pitch out and just hit it out. I'm glad it happened."

Relievers Christian Garcia, Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez blanked the Phillies the rest of the way, while Morse closed out the Nats' scoring with a two-run homer off Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth, his 18th of the year. While running the bases on the home runs, Morse suffered a spasm in his left hamstring.

"Hopefully it was just a spasm, not any slight pull," Johnson said.

Morse wasn't the only injured member of the Nationals. Johnson lost feeling in his left leg in the third inning and Knorr had to manage the rest of the game. Johnson, who said the numbness was related to narrowing between his L3 and L4 vertebrae, received an injection and is expected to be ready to manage Game 1 of the NLDS.

"I'm OK, there's nothing wrong with me," Johnson said. "Just numb. I took a muscle relaxer at that time, a heavy dose of aspirin. In about the seventh inning, it didn't let up, so I just said I don't want to miss a step. ... But it's nothing more than they can give me an injection in that area."

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