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With top seed in hand, Nats await Braves or Cardinals

The SportsXchange

The Washington Nationals finished the regular season Wednesday with a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies to lock up the top seed in the National League playoffs.

Manager Davey Johnson has been saying all season that he didn't want a wild-card spot but was gunning for a division title. They locked that one up Monday night when the Atlanta Braves lost.

On Tuesday night, Johnson rested most of his starters and the Nationals still won. They just needed a win today or a Reds' loss to clinch the top spot, and the Nationals took care of their own business.

They finish the season with a record of 98-64. The team's best record since moving to town in 2005 had been 81-81 in that first year, when they battled for the top spot in the NL East for much of the early part of the season before fading in the summer.

That means the Nationals move on to the National League Division Series on Sunday. They'll take on either the Braves or St. Louis Cardinals, who battle in the wild-card playoff game Friday.

Washington goes to whichever team wins that for the start of the best-of-five division series. The first two games are in Atlanta or St. Louis, the rest of the series back in Washington.

"It's quite an accomplishment," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "This is a great season. We have a lot more to accomplish, hopefully."

The Nationals needed to overcome an unusually large number of injuries that hampered them at various times, especially in the first half.

But the starting pitching never blinked all season and was the best in baseball. It kept Washington alive, and the offense helped in the second half.

"It's a pretty good season, all things considered," said outfielder Jayson Werth, who missed nearly three months. "We had a lot of injuries and things to overcome. Just the fact that we ended up here (is good). I like where we're sitting heading into the postseason."
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