video thumbnail

Nationals tops in NL East in 2012

One team is playing for the best record in the National League, while the other has a chance to extend a streak that dates back to 2002.

The Nationals and Phillies close out their regular seasons on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park, with only one of them heading to the postseason.

A Nationals win -- or a Reds loss -- would give Washington the best record in the NL and the league's No. 1 seed. The top seed plays the winner of the Wild Card game in the NL Division Series; the No. 2 seed plays the Giants.

A solid bounceback performance heading into the postseason could help Washington's Edwin Jackson, who gave up nine runs (eight earned) over just 1 1/3 innings in a 12-2 loss to the Cardinals on Friday. Jackson, who won a World Series with the Cardinals last season and pitched in another with the Rays in 2008, will likely start either Game 3 or 4 of the NLDS.

Meanwhile, a Phillies victory would give them a franchise-best 10th consecutive winning season. Entering the season, their streak of nine straight winning campaigns was the third-longest active run, behind just the Red Sox and Yankees.

Philadelphia will call on decorated left-hander Cliff Lee, who will close out what has been a strange season. Though he has a 3.12 ERA and has displayed pinpoint precision, recording 200 strikeouts against just 28 walks, poor run support and some bad luck have resulted in just six wins.

The Phillies hope to help him earn his seventh, and their 82nd, on Wednesday.

Phillies: Rollins likely out for Wednesday's finale
Jimmy Rollins, who has been dealing with an issue in his right calf, probably won't play in the season finale. Manager Charlie Manuel said before Tuesday's game, a 4-2 loss, that Rollins' season was likely over.

If that's the case, Rollins finishes hitting .250 with 33 doubles, five triples, a team-leading 23 home runs, 68 RBIs, 102 runs and 30 stolen bases.

On Tuesday, for the second consecutive game, utility man Michael Martinez started at shortstop, and third baseman Kevin Frandsen took Rollins' leadoff spot.

• Darin Ruf hit his second and third Major League home runs in Tuesday's loss. Ruf, who mashed a Minor League-best 38 homers for Double-A Reading, has at least one hit in each of his eight big league starts. All of his homers have come against the Nationals.

Nationals: Gonzalez, Zimmermann to start first two NLDS games
Scratched from his final regular-season start on Tuesday night, Gio Gonzalez has a much more important outing ahead.

Gonzalez, a strong candidate for the NL Cy Young Award, will start the first game of the NLDS; Jordan Zimmermann is set to start Game 2. Manager Davey Johnson said the starters for Games 3 and 4 will be determined once the Nationals' opponent is known.

"It means a lot [to start Game 1], especially with such a great rotation that we have," Gonzalez said. "[There are] so many guys that could easily take it and deserve it. I'm grateful to be mentioned in that conversation. If they feel like they want to put me out there for the first one, I'm going to give it all I've got."

Worth noting
• Wednesday's game could also decide the winner of the season series between these clubs. The Phillies have nine wins to the Nationals' eight.

• With his solo homer in the sixth inning on Tuesday, Adam LaRoche became just the third Nationals player to drive in 100 runs in a season. Ryan Zimmerman accomplished the feat in 2006 and 2009, and former National Adam Dunn recorded 100 in 2009 and 2010.

• Philadelphia's B.J. Rosenberg pitched well on Tuesday night in his first Major League start, throwing the first four innings of a game pitched entirely by the Phillies' bullpen. The right-hander gave up one run on three hits, struck out three and walked two. He finishes his rookie season with a 1-2 record and 6.12 ERA, though he improved as the year wore on. Comments