After getting little help from their closest pursuer, the Washington Nationals can now clinch the franchise's first division title in over three decades all by themselves.
A win Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals would give the Nationals the NL East title and also keep them ahead in the race for the league's best record.
Already assured of the first postseason appearance in the nation's capital since 1933, Washington (96-62) reduced its magic number for the division title to one with a 6-4 victory in 10 innings Saturday night. Michael Morse hit a first-inning grand slam that was upheld by a video review and Kurt Suzuki delivered a two-run double in the 10th.
That would've been enough to give the Nationals the franchise's first division crown since Montreal won the East in 1981 if Atlanta had lost, but the wild card-leading Braves beat the Mets for their 11th win in 14 games."We showed a lot and we showed what good teams do, and that's bounce back and battle through adversity," said closer Drew Storen , who blew his first save in four chances. "So it's ours for the taking tomorrow."We're going to be ready, lace it up and let's get it done."
The victory moved Washington one game ahead of Cincinnati in the race for the NL's best record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
With only their second win in the last 13 games in St. Louis (85-73), the Nationals improved to 6-17 there since the 2005 season.
The Cardinals' magic number for locking up the second wild-card spot remained three after they had a five-game home win streak snapped and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat Colorado."They're all tough right now, every game," manager Mike Matheny said. "The guys did a great job fighting back, but still it's all about the wins. We got close."
St. Louis native Ross Detwiler (10-7, 3.28 ERA) will try to pitch Washington to a historic win Sunday.
The left-hander had been 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA in his previous five starts before he allowed five runs over five innings in a 6-3 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday. He surrendered two homers in the defeat - his first since Aug. 22 - after yielding only three in his previous eight outings.
Detwiler, who has never faced his hometown team, has one win in his last 11 road starts and he could face a stronger Cardinals lineup if third baseman David Freese returns after missing four games with a sprained right ankle. Freese, who took batting practice both Friday and Saturday, has a career-high 20 homers and ranks fourth on the team with 79 RBIs.
"I felt pretty good running, making cuts and turning," Freese told the team's official website. "I'm close."
St. Louis will send red-hot Lance Lynn (17-7, 3.69) to the mound hoping he can continue his resurgence. Since returning from a stint in the bullpen, the right-hander has won all three of his starts, compiling a 0.93 ERA while striking out 21 and walking six.
"It got me back in sync," Lynn told the team's official website about his time as a reliever. "I was a little out of sync and everything was snowballing on me. I went down there and worked on what I needed to work on to getting back to being successful. It has worked so far."
He was outstanding again Monday in a 6-1 victory at Houston, allowing one run in seven innings with nine strikeouts and two walks.
This will be Lynn's first career start against the Nationals after giving up four runs over two innings in a pair of relief appearances earlier this season.
|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|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|September 28, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|September 28, 2012||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - left elbow contusion|
|September 23, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Lower back spasms|
|September 09, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Swollen left ankle|
|September 09, 2012||Matt Carpenter||Day-to-Day||Cut hand|
|September 09, 2012||Jake Westbrook||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Cardinals closed in on the NL's second wild-card berth while the Washington Nationals failed to make progress toward the NL East title.
Carlos Beltran homered from both sides of the plate for the ninth time in his career and drove in five runs, leading St. Louis over the Nationals 10-4 Sunday.
"We're one step closer, but there's still a long way to go," said Mike Matheny , who took over as manager from Tony La Russa after the Cardinals won last year's World Series. "We've got to keep playing and playing well. The guys came out pushing today against a very good team."
St. Louis (86-73) took a 7-0 lead by the third inning and holds a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers (84-75), who beat Colorado 7-1.
Washington (96-63), already assured of the capital's first postseason baseball since 1933, saw its magic number for clinching the NL East remain at one over second-place Atlanta (93-66).
"We've had rough outings before," manager Davey Johnson said. "We've bounced back. It's better to clinch it at home anyway."
Beltran hit a pair of two-run homers, connecting right-handed off Ross Detwiler (10-8) in the second and left-handed against Chien-Ming Wang in the fourth. Beltran has four multihomer games this season and 34 in his career. He improved to 32 homers with 97 RBIs in his first season with St. Louis.
"Sometimes it happens where you feel from both sides, but most of the time you feel good from one side," Beltran said. "But it's always good to have a day like today where you have a good at-bat on the left and the right side."
Beltran entered in a 1-for-14 slide that had dropped his batting average to .265.
"As ballplayers, you're going to go through good stretches and bad stretches," Beltran said. "I try not to focus on that. I try to focus on the work that I do, come to the ballpark and prepare myself."
Matheny knows Beltran has been working hard.
"It's great to see for him," Matheny said. "The guy cares so much and it sometimes isn't translated in such a workmanlike attitude. It's really been bother him that he hasn't been able to step up. Days like today remind us of good he is."
Lance Lynn (18-7) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings, improving to 5-0 with a 2.10 ERA in his last five appearances.
"We won. That's all that matters," Lynn said. "You try to win series right now and do everything you can to win every game possible."
Pete Kozma was 3 for 3 with three RBIs, raising his average to .338.
Rookie Bryce Harper hit his 22nd home run for Washington, a solo shot. Danny Espinosa also had a two-run homer for the Nationals.
Detwiler, a St. Louis area native making his first start in his hometown, allowed seven runs - three earned - four hits and five walks in 2 1-3 innings. He set season highs for fewest innings and most walks.
"I just didn't throw any strikes," Detwiler said, who threw 43 of 81 pitches in the strike zone. "You walk five people in two innings, you won't have much success doing that."
St. Louis took a 5-0 lead in the second after Yadier Molina and David Freese walked, and second baseman Danny Espinosa booted Daniel Descalso 's grounder, loading the bases. Kozma hit a two-run double down the right-field line, with Descalso thrown out at the plate on Espinosa's relay from Jayson Werth . Jon Jay 's one-out single made it 3-0, and Beltran homered.
Harper's homer, Ian Desmond 's RBI double and Espinosa's two-run homer cut the deficit to 7-4 in the fourth, but Beltran connected off Wang in the bottom half, and Beltran hit an RBI single against Zach Duke .
"The offense did great today," Lynn said "I was able to do my job, except for the fourth inning."
NOTES: John Lannan (4-0) will face the Kyle Kendrick (10-12) as the Nationals open a three-game series at home against Philadelphia on Monday. ... The Cardinals' Jaime Garcia (6-7) will oppose visiting Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo (12-9). ... David Freese returned to the Cardinals' starting lineup after missing five starts with a sprained ankle. ... Harper is two home runs shy of Tony Conigliaro 's record among teenagers.