"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."
|Tony Gwynn Jr.||5||.000||0||0||0||1||1||.167||.167||.000|
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||8||.250||2||0||1||1||0||.333||.583||.250|
|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) -- Even Matt Kemp was willing to concede the phantom run the umpires said he scored for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth inning - long before his go-ahead homer in the ninth - should not have counted.
Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (" They obviously blew the call" ), third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (" You can't just give out free runs in the big leagues" ) and catcher Jesus Flores (" Terrible call" ) were much more blunt about it.
In a wild game Wednesday, Kemp was ruled safe at home to give Los Angeles a six-run lead even though TV replays clearly showed that Zimmerman's head-over-heels lunging tag already had been applied to runner Adrian Gonzalez at third for the inning's final out. After Washington used a six-run eighth to tie the score, Kemp led off the ninth with a homer off closer Tyler Clippard , and the struggling Dodgers grabbed a 7-6 victory for a doubleheader split that prevented the Nationals from sewing up their first playoff berth since moving from Montreal in 2005.
"It looked pretty close. I actually probably should have been running just forward and not looking back. ... I don't know if I quite made it or not," Kemp said, before asking reporters whether they had seen a replay.
Informed that he should not have scored, Kemp said: "Actually, yeah, I don't think I did. But we got lucky right there. We stole a run."
That extra run really loomed large when the hosts - who had won the opener 3-1 thanks largely to Jordan Zimmermann 's six innings of one-run baseball - wound up sending 12 batters to the plate while scoring six runs in the eighth.
"At the time, I don't think anyone thought it was a really big deal, but it turned out to be a big deal," Zimmerman said. "It was 5-0, and they just make it 6-0."
Crew chief Mike Winters declined to comment.
"Calls like that, you never know when they're going to come back and kick you," said Washington's Michael Morse , who delivered a leadoff homer and a two-run single in the eighth.
The announced crowd of 26,931 was getting loud, perhaps anticipating a comeback and playoff-clinching victory, when Kemp drove an 0-2, elevated fastball from Clippard (2-5) over the wall in center for his 19th homer.
"I can't remember ever putting a ball in that spot and getting hurt like that in my whole career," said Clippard, who earned his 32nd save of the season in Game 1. "It's a tough one to swallow, but nothing I can do about it now."
Ronald Belisario (7-1) earned the win by getting the last two outs of the eighth inning. Brandon League picked up his third save with a hitless ninth.
Washington's victory in the opener was Los Angeles' ninth loss in 12 games - and lowered the host's magic number for securing at least a wild-card spot to one. But the Nationals must wait at least another day to be certain of making the playoffs.
"We're not shooting for a playoff spot. We're shooting to win a division," Clippard said. "So regardless if we won tonight or not, that's not really where we want to be."
Los Angeles' Game 2 starter, Josh Beckett , threw seven shutout innings but left in the eighth after allowing four runs - three earned - and five hits. By then, Johnson had pulled starters Jayson Werth , Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche - Washington's Nos. 1-3-4 hitters.
While Beckett was terrific for a time, retiring 13 consecutive batters in one stretch, Nationals starter John Lannan struggled almost from the outset. Making his second start since taking over Stephen Strasburg 's slot in the rotation, Lannan looked little like the guy who entered the night 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA in the majors in 2012 - and much more like the guy who spent most of the year at Triple-A Syracuse.
He was charged with three runs in each of the third and fourth innings, hurt by singles, walks and a hit batter. In all, Lannan lasted only 3 2-3 innings, giving up eight hits. He departed with the bases loaded in the fourth, giving way to Chien-Ming Wang, who had been out with a hip injury and missed about 2 1/2 months.
Wang's first pitch in a major league game since June 30 missed the mark completely. The wild pitch skipped past catcher Flores, allowing a run to score. The batter, Hanley Ramirez , eventually sent a grounder to Zimmerman, who flipped over and reached out to barely tag out Gonzalez. The umpires ruled that Kemp, who was running home from third on the play, crossed the plate in time to make it 6-0 - but he had not.
Johnson, in his words, "raised a fuss" with the umpires, to no avail.
"They all discussed it, and evidently nobody was paying attention," Johnson said. "Kemp wasn't running. He just wasn't running. The tag play was before. Obviously they missed it, but you'd think when the three of them got together somebody would've been paying attention that Kemp was not at home."
Hours before, as music blared in the Nationals' clubhouse between games, Johnson insisted it didn't matter at all that his team had earned its 90th win and lowered its magic number for a wild-card 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."
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.
"Just keep the blinders on," Morse said. "Just keep pushing and pushing."
NOTES: Zimmermann (11-8) got the win in Game 1; Aaron Harang (9-10) took the loss. ... Bryce Harper made a twisting, over-the-shoulder catch with his back to the infield on a drive to the deepest part of the park by Shane Victorino leading off the sixth inning in Game 2. ... Victorino stole two bases in Game 1 to raise his season total to 37, tying a career high.