"I'm sure 'Stras' would volunteer," Johnson said, chuckling at his reference to the famously shut-down Stephen Strasburg . "He is right-handed. He has been chompin'."
For the first time since baseball returned to Washington in 2005, September pitching choices made by the Nationals' skipper really do matter. Despite coming off a three-game sweep by the Atlanta Braves , the Nationals own the best record in the majors at 89-57.
Indeed, Washington announced it will put tickets for potential postseason games on sale Friday. The team hasn't finished higher than third place since arriving from Montreal.
"We're close, but the thing is, we're going to do what we've been doing all year, and that's kind of keep our head down and worry about one game at a time. Especially late in the season like this, if you get ahead of yourself, you can get yourself in trouble," reliever Drew Storen said. "We've done a good job all year of not really getting caught up in all that stuff."
With Tuesday's rainout, the 76-71 Dodgers - who are second in a long line of teams fighting for the NL's second wild-card spot - and Nationals will play a single-admission doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. Johnson expected to use Tuesday's scheduled starter, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann , and left-hander John Lannan ; Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Aaron Harang and Josh Beckett will be his pitchers.
Harang (9-9, 3.79 ERA) is 0-2 with a 4.71 ERA over his last four starts but 1-1 with a 2.19 ERA in his past four versus Washington, while Beckett - facing the Nats for the first time since 2005 - is 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in four starts since joining the Dodgers.
Zimmermann (10-8, 3.01) has struggled over the last month, going 1-2 with a 6.03 ERA, and he'll get his first look at Los Angeles since 2009. Lannan (3-0, 2.41), meanwhile, is 4-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his last four starts in this series.
Looking further down the line, Johnson figures he'll need to plug someone into what would have been Zimmermann's next start, on Sunday at home against Milwaukee. He mentioned righties Craig Stammen and Chien-Ming Wang as possible fill-in starters.
"I just don't want any of my good, young pitchers to (come back) on short rest at this point. And I don't think 'Zim' has done it, and he's had a little bit of that inflammation there," Johnson said. "I think he could do it, and have no problem, but it's not something I'd like to do to any of those in the rotation, at this point."
Espinosa thought he might have a torn labrum in his aching left shoulder, but instead found out that it's a bone bruise in the socket. He got a cortisone shot Monday to relieve the pain and hopes to be able to play as soon as Wednesday.
"This is the best news that we could have gotten," Espinosa said. "If this was a rotator cuff tear or a labrum tear, it would have lingered the rest of the season. I would have had to have surgery in the offseason."
Morse was slated to start in the outfield and hit fifth if Tuesday's game had been played. He missed the past four games with a bothersome left wrist.
"It's another day to heal," Johnson said. "Mike was feeling pretty good. He was good to go. We were anxious to have him in the lineup."
The Dodgers got some potentially positive news as well. Closer Kenley Jansen , who has 25 saves, has been cleared to pitch again after being held out since late August because of an irregular heartbeat.
Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw , meanwhile, was examined by a hip specialist who said the left-hander can continue to pitch without risking damage to his sore right hip.
The Dodgers, who plan to have Kershaw re-start a throwing program, aren't so certain about his status.
Asked whether Kershaw will pitch again this season, Mattingly replied: "Yeah, maybe. Sounds like there's a chance of it."
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|September 15, 2012||Clayton Kershaw||Day-to-Day||Torn labrum, right hip|
|September 11, 2012||Adam Kennedy||60-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|September 09, 2012||Clayton Kershaw||Day-to-Day||Sore hip|
|September 08, 2012||Adam Kennedy||Day-to-Day||Strained right groin|
|September 08, 2012||Matt Kemp||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder strain|
|September 03, 2012||Javy Guerra||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|September 12, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Torn cuff and bone bruise in left wrist|
|September 03, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right thumb|
|September 02, 2012||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Sore hamstring|
|August 24, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Strained right hamstring|
|August 24, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hand contusion|
|August 13, 2012||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Sore right ankle|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As music blared in the Washington Nationals ' clubhouse between games of a doubleheader Wednesday, manager Davey Johnson insisted it didn't matter at all that his team had earned its 90th win and lowered its magic number for securing a playoff berth to one.
"The only thing that's going to mean anything to me is when we clinch the pennant," Johnson said. "That's the only thing, the only number, I'm concerned with."
Nearing their first postseason appearance since arriving in Washington, the NL East-leading Nationals scratched out a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the doubleheader opener, supporting Jordan Zimmermann 's six innings of one-run pitching with two RBI groundouts and a sacrifice fly.
The Nationals' 90 victories are the most for a major league club in the nation's capital since 1933 - which also was the last time a D.C. team played beyond the regular season.
"We're really not thinking about that. Definitely, I'm not, anyway," said Kurt Suzuki , who drove in Washington's first run with a fly ball in the second inning. "We're thinking about winning the division."
Pitching on seven days' rest because of Monday's scheduled day off and Tuesday's rainout, Zimmermann (11-8) kept putting runners on base and working around it. He allowed six hits, walked four and hit a batter, but Hanley Ramirez 's RBI single in the third produced the Dodgers' only run.
"I was a little out of sync" in the early going Wednesday, Zimmermann said. "The last three innings, I felt much better and was able to control everything."
Four relievers followed him, combining to allow three hits across four shutout innings. Sean Burnett got out of a potentially troublesome spot in the seventh by striking out Adrian Gonzalez with runners on the corners, and Tyler Clippard pitched the ninth for his 32nd save in 35 chances.
Another victory in the day's second game would allow the Nationals to assure themselves of no worse than a wild-card berth.
But everyone associated with the franchise, which moved from Montreal before the 2005 season, keeps saying the real goal is a division title - followed by more success in the postseason.
As general manager Mike Rizzo put it: "Clinching a playoff berth is just one of the small steps in our grand plan."
Two of Washington's runs in Game 1 came off Aaron Harang (9-10), who threw 4 2-3 innings and gave up seven hits.
"He was pretty good," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He got some big outs to keep us in it."
Washington went up 2-1 in the fifth. Teenager Bryce Harper hustled his way to a triple after lining a ball barely out of the second baseman's reach and to the wall in right-center.
Ryan Zimmerman , who got a cortisone shot before the game for a bothersome right shoulder, followed with a groundout to bring home Harper.
Harper's triple was his eighth, the most by any Nationals player in a season since the club moved to Washington.
Another RBI groundout, this one by pinch-hitter Tyler Moore , made it 3-1 in the sixth.
"It tells me," Johnson said, "we can score without hitting home runs."
NOTES: Playing two days after getting a cortisone shot for a painful left shoulder, Washington 2B Danny Espinosa made a couple of fine sliding, spinning plays to record groundouts. He also singled in each of his first two at-bats. ... Dodgers LF Shane Victorino stole two bases to raise his season total to 37, tying a career high. ... Johnson said offseason surgery to clean out Zimmerman's shoulder "will definitely be seriously considered." Rizzo said that if Zimmerman does have an operation, "He'd certainly be ready for whenever spring training begins." ... Mattingly said LHP Clayton Kershaw was OK after getting hit in the dugout during the game by Ramirez's broken bat. Kershaw, out with a sore right hip, has started to play catch. Kershaw won't pitch in a game until he throws off a mound, which hasn't been scheduled yet.