The Washington Nationals are headed to the postseason.
If the Milwaukee Brewers keep playing the way they have, they could be headed there as well.
After securing the franchise's second playoff berth, the Nationals look to prevent the visiting Brewers from extending their season-high winning streak to six games Friday night.
For the first time since 1933, postseason baseball will be played in the nation's capital after Washington (91-58) beat Los Angeles 4-1 on Thursday to clinch the franchise's first playoff berth since the Montreal Expos won the NL East in 1981. The Nationals' magic number to win the East is eight."We've been through a lot and a lot of us in here have been through a lot of not-good times and these are the beginning of hope for a lot of good times," said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman , who is 5 for 14 (.357) in the last four games.
"It's a first step, and it's a long ways to go."
Milwaukee (77-72) has lost five of six at Washington, but won five straight overall and 23 of 29 to move within 2 1/2 games of St. Louis for the final NL wild-card spot. The Brewers rallied from three runs down to score five times in the last two innings Thursday to complete a three-game sweep at Pittsburgh with a 9-7 win."We're doing everything right, right now," said third baseman Aramis Ramirez , who went 3 for 5 with a homer and three RBIs. "I played on a couple of really good teams in Chicago (with the Cubs) but we started off the season really well. We've kind of made a late push here. Hopefully, it's not too late."
Ramirez has certainly helped the Brewers make their push, batting .351 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs in his last 24 games. He's 6 for 11 with three doubles and a homer against the Nationals this season.
Teammate Rickie Weeks is batting .333 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in his last 20 games to raise his average from .213 to .232. The second baseman is 6 for 14 (.429) with three doubles and a home run against the Nationals.
One of the few concerns facing the Brewers might be scheduled starter Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.91 ERA), who is 0-1 with a 5.70 ERA in five starts since missing more than two months with tightness in his elbow. The right-hander has not earned a decision in four consecutive starts, most recently Saturday when he allowed four runs in four innings of a 9-6 win over New York."He's just missing on his location," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I don't know if it's a rhythm thing with his delivery, or I don't know what it is."
This will be Marcum's first appearance against the Nationals since he allowed two solo homers and one other hit while striking out 11 in seven innings of a 7-3 win for Toronto on June 16, 2007.
Washington counters with Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.89), who pitched seven scoreless innings in an 8-2 win at Milwaukee on July 26 to improve to 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA in six starts against the Brewers.
Jackson, however, is 1-1 with a 7.47 ERA during his last three starts overall. The right-hander gave up four runs and two homers in 5 1-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-4 loss at Atlanta on Saturday.
Washington shortstop Ian Desmond , who had two hits Thursday, has batted .380 with 12 RBIs in his last 20 games.
|September 12, 2012||Carlos Gomez||Day-to-Day||Left game - right quad contusion|
|September 09, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
|September 09, 2012||Corey Hart||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|July 29, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||60-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|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) -- The Milwaukee Brewers used a late rally to keep alive their playoff push.
Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez had consecutive RBI hits in the ninth inning off Nationals closer Tyler Clippard and the Milwaukee Brewers extended their season-high winning streak to six games with a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
The victory combined with a St. Louis loss moved the Brewers within 1 1-2 games of the Cardinals for the final wild card berth in the National League.
Held to one run over eight innings against Nationals starter Edwin Jackson , the Brewers scored three against Clippard (2-6).
"We have to win games. We're not in a position where we can rely on other people to lose," said Braun, who finished with three hits including two doubles.
"We knew heading into today's game that we finally had an opportunity to pick up a game if we won and it looked improbable, but we found a way again."
Norichika Aoki led off the ninth with bunt single, took second on a passed ball by catcher Jesus Flores and moved to third on Rickie Weeks ' fly ball out.
Rather than intentionally walk the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, the Nationals pitched to Braun who promptly singled to left, scoring Aoki. Braun then stole second and came around to score the go-ahead run on Ramirez's double to left. After moving to third on a Clippard wild pitch, Ramirez scored on Travis Ishikawa 's infield single.
Jose Veras (5-4) worked one inning in relief and John Axford pitched the ninth for his 32nd save.
"I think anytime you don't score for a long period it seems like the energy is gone, but I watched the way the guys were playing," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We're still getting after it. I haven't for a long time -- I haven't seen this team just kind of show up. That's not what they're doing."
Despite the loss, Washington's magic number for clinching the NL East fell to seven following Atlanta's loss at Philadelphia. On Thursday, the Nationals clinched the first postseason berth by a Washington baseball team since 1933.
"That one hurt," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who admitted he was "tempted" to let Jackson pitch the ninth. Instead he went with Clippard, who only got two outs and allowed three runs on four hits in his fifth blown save on the season and third loss this month. In nine September appearances, he has allowed nine earned runs in 8 1-3 innings.
"I'm trying to figure it out, I'm searching right now," Clippard said. "We'll get it figured out, I'm not too worried about it. I'm still confident as heck. It hurt tonight, I'm not going to lie to you."
Before the game Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced he plans to use Clippard and Drew Storen in the closer role going forward. Clippard has 32 saves this season after taking over for Storen, who underwent elbow surgery this year after recording 43 saves in 2011
Jackson efficiently limited the Brewers before being removed by a pinch-hitter, allowing one run over eight innings, scattering six hits with six strikeouts on 101 pitches. He did not issue a walk for the first time since May 13 at Cincinnati.
Adam LaRoche 's two-run homer in the first inning gave Washington the early lead and Bryce Harper 's defense kept it that way until the ninth.
The blown save denied Jackson's bid at becoming the fifth Nationals' starter with at least 10 wins this season.
In his longest and most effective start since returning from the disabled list in August, Brewers starter Shaun Marcum worked six innings, allowing two runs on four hits with three strikeouts. He silenced Washington's bats after LaRoche's homer, surrendering only two base hits after the first inning.
With Ryan Zimmerman on first base after a two-out single, LaRoche turned on a 1-1 pitch from Marcum and parked it over the right field wall for his 31st home run, putting Washington ahead 2-0.
Jonathan Lucroy cut the lead in half leading off the second with a towering solo home run to left off Jackson, who responded by striking out the side.
The strong-armed Harper kept the Brewers from tying the game in the fourth.
Braun led off the top of the inning with a double and Ramirez followed with a single to center. With Braun rounding third, Harper charged the grounder and threw a strike to catcher Jesus Flores , who blocked the plate and tagged out the Brewers sliding left fielder.
Ramirez took second on the play and moments later had the opportunity to test the 19-year-olds arm after Lucroy's base hit to center. He declined, remaining on third. Jackson escaped the inning by inducing Ishikawa into a ground ball double play.
Jean Segura singled against Jackson with one-out in the eighth inning. Trying to steal second, Segura was thrown out by Flores on the back-end of a double play as pinch-hitter Corey Hart struck out.
The dramatic conclusion followed.
"This is probably the best team in baseball and has been all year so you know nothing is going to come easy and whenever you're on the road it's that much more challenging," Braun said about beating the 91-win Nationals. "Certainly we've been finding different ways to win -- a lot of guys contributing."
Notes: Before the game, Milwaukee acquired veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba from Toronto for cash considerations. In 59 games with the Blue Jays and Rangers this season, Torrealba is batting .233 with four homers and 14 RBIs. He is expected to join the team on Saturday. ... Left-hander Gio Gonzalez aims for his 20th win on Saturday while the Brewers counter with righty Wily Peralta .