Brewers-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

The Washington Nationals are headed to the postseason.

If the Milwaukee Brewers keep playing the way they have, they could be headed there as well.

After securing the franchise's second playoff berth, the Nationals look to prevent the visiting Brewers from extending their season-high winning streak to six games Friday night.

For the first time since 1933, postseason baseball will be played in the nation's capital after Washington (91-58) beat Los Angeles 4-1 on Thursday to clinch the franchise's first playoff berth since the Montreal Expos won the NL East in 1981. The Nationals' magic number to win the East is eight.

"We've been through a lot and a lot of us in here have been through a lot of not-good times and these are the beginning of hope for a lot of good times,'' said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who is 5 for 14 (.357) in the last four games.

"It's a first step, and it's a long ways to go."

Milwaukee (77-72) has lost five of six at Washington, but won five straight overall and 23 of 29 to move within 2 1/2 games of St. Louis for the final NL wild-card spot. The Brewers rallied from three runs down to score five times in the last two innings Thursday to complete a three-game sweep at Pittsburgh with a 9-7 win.

"We're doing everything right, right now,'' said third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who went 3 for 5 with a homer and three RBIs. "I played on a couple of really good teams in Chicago (with the Cubs) but we started off the season really well. We've kind of made a late push here. Hopefully, it's not too late.''

Ramirez has certainly helped the Brewers make their push, batting .351 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs in his last 24 games. He's 6 for 11 with three doubles and a homer against the Nationals this season.

Teammate Rickie Weeks is batting .333 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in his last 20 games to raise his average from .213 to .232. The second baseman is 6 for 14 (.429) with three doubles and a home run against the Nationals.

One of the few concerns facing the Brewers might be scheduled starter Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.91 ERA), who is 0-1 with a 5.70 ERA in five starts since missing more than two months with tightness in his elbow. The right-hander has not earned a decision in four consecutive starts, most recently Saturday when he allowed four runs in four innings of a 9-6 win over New York.

"He's just missing on his location,'' manager Ron Roenicke said. "I don't know if it's a rhythm thing with his delivery, or I don't know what it is.''

This will be Marcum's first appearance against the Nationals since he allowed two solo homers and one other hit while striking out 11 in seven innings of a 7-3 win for Toronto on June 16, 2007.

Washington counters with Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.89), who pitched seven scoreless innings in an 8-2 win at Milwaukee on July 26 to improve to 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA in six starts against the Brewers.

Jackson, however, is 1-1 with a 7.47 ERA during his last three starts overall. The right-hander gave up four runs and two homers in 5 1-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-4 loss at Atlanta on Saturday.

Washington shortstop Ian Desmond, who had two hits Thursday, has batted .380 with 12 RBIs in his last 20 games.

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