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STL@HOU: Lynn strikes out nine over seven innings

Slowly but surely, the Nationals continue their creep toward the National League East title. Saturday night's 6-4 10-inning win over the Cardinals lowered their magic number to one, placing the Nationals' playoffs destiny in their own hands for the series finale on Sunday.

Ross Detwiler, born and raised in St. Louis and pitching for the first time against the Cardinals, gets the start for Washington on Sunday. The 26-year-old left-hander earned a loss in his last time out against the Phillies on Sept. 25 -- a five-inning outing in which he allowed five runs on five hits -- but it was his first in more than a month.

"He has such a good fastball, sometimes he gets stubborn and just throws instead of pitches," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said afterward. "Obviously, he didn't have good feel for the ball -- a bunch of walks and not consistently down in the zone. That's what is going to happen.

"Sometimes he has a great fastball, but he also has a good changeup and curveball. He has to learn to try pitching with them instead of trying to overthrow [with his fastball]."

The Cardinals, who trot out Lance Lynn on Sunday, haven't quite locked up their playoff berth. But with a two-game lead over the Dodgers for the NL's final Wild Card spot with four games to go, their outlook has brightened after winning six of their last 10.

"We're just focused on keeping our heads down and going," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Every game means so much.

"For us to have been there and having been to the postseason, that's a huge advantage over the next few days."

Nationals: Postseason rotation not easy to set
Johnson would like to begin setting his rotation for the playoffs, but with the Nats still having not clinched the NL East, that has remained a difficult task. Gio Gonzalez is the likely Game 1 starter for the NL Division Series, but the left-hander is slated to pitch on Tuesday, meaning he would have to pitch on three days' rest if the first game of the playoffs comes on Saturday.

"It's hard to set it up," Johnson said. "If we have to go all the way to [Wednesday not knowing who they will play], then I won't have that luxury."

Cardinals: Freese hoping to be back on Sunday
Cardinals third baseman David Freese is expected to return to the lineup on Sunday. Freese rolled his right ankle in an indoor batting cage prior to Monday's game in Houston.

"I felt pretty good running, making cuts and turning," Freese said prior to Saturday's game, in which he entered as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and earned a walk before being removed for a pinch-runner. "I'm close."

Worth noting
• Adam LaRoche is one RBI short of becoming the third player to have a 100-RBI season in a Nationals uniform. Ryan Zimmerman (2006, '09) and Adam Dunn (2009-10) are the other two.

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