Dodgers-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

The Washington Nationals will have to wait at least one more day to clinch an inevitable postseason berth, but that doesn't seem to matter much to a team expecting to play deep into October.

The Los Angeles Dodgers don't have nearly the same comfort level.

Washington can clinch the franchise's first playoff appearance in 31 years by putting a damper on Los Angeles' postseason chances in Thursday's series finale in D.C.

The Nationals won the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader 3-1, bringing them within one victory of securing at least a wild-card berth. Their rally fell short in a 7-6 defeat in the second contest, delaying any sort of celebration.

There may not have been much excitement anyway from NL East-leading Washington (90-58), which hasn't appeared in the postseason since the 1981 Montreal Expos were one win from winning the NL championship.

''Clinching a playoff berth is just one of the small steps in our grand plan,'' general manager Mike Rizzo said.

Manager Davey Johnson, who has guided three other teams to division titles and the 1986 New York Mets to a World Series championship, shares the same sentiment.

''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 Dodgers (77-72), meanwhile, would celebrate simply qualifying for the postseason. They nearly blew a 6-0 lead in the second game Wednesday, when Washington's six-run eighth tied it before Matt Kemp homered leading off the ninth.

Los Angeles, which has dropped nine of 14, is two games behind St. Louis for the second wild-card spot with only 13 to play. The deficit may have been more, but they received a gift run in the fourth inning despite replays showing Kemp crossed the plate after Adrian Gonzalez was tagged out to end the inning.

"At the end of the day, you split and you've got a chance to win the series," manager Don Mattingly told the team's official website. "That's what we talked about. We've got five series left, or four after tomorrow. So if we win five series, we're going to take our chances."

The Dodgers will look to win their first series since taking two of three from Miami from Aug. 24-26 behind Chris Capuano.

Capuano (11-10, 3.60 ERA) hasn't won since beating Miami on Aug. 12, and he's 0-2 with a 6.26 ERA over his last five starts. He tied his shortest outing of the season when he gave up four runs - two earned - in 4 1-3 innings of Friday's 8-5 loss to St. Louis.

The left-hander is 3-3 with a 3.72 ERA in seven career starts versus Washington after allowing three hits and striking out nine in 6 2-3 innings of a 2-0 win April 29.

Ross Detwiler (9-6, 3.16), who is 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA over his last four starts, counters for the Nationals. He's winless in his last two, though, despite giving up one run and striking out five during Washington's 2-1 walkoff loss to Atlanta on Friday.

''Det pitched a hell of a ball game,'' Johnson said. ''He showed me something. He was in trouble and he got out of it.''

The left-hander has a 3.77 ERA over two starts and one relief appearance in his career versus the Dodgers. He gave up three runs in six innings of a 3-2 loss in his most recent outing against them April 27.