WASHINGTON -- Darin Ruf's two-run triple in the second inning held up, and Kyle Kendrick earned his career-high 11th win as the Phillies blanked the Nationals, 2-0, Monday night.
But it wasn't a completely bad night for Washington as the Nationals clinched the National League East anyway thanks to Atlanta's 2-1 loss to the Pirates. That's the team's first division title since arriving in Washington seven years ago.
The stadium crowd burst out into celebration once news of the Atlanta loss was announced during the ninth inning. Fans began standing and cheering, holding up banners, and the players were laughing and smiling.
They wanted the division title and not the wild-card -- and the Nationals finally got their wish.
The Nationals now are hoping to earn the top spot in the National League playoffs and are battling with Cincinnati for that. Washington would get the tiebreaker if it finishes tied with the Reds.
However, the Nationals couldn't find much offense on this night against Kendrick and three Phillies relievers. Washington finished with just five hits overall.
Kendrick (11-12) gave up just four hits over seven innings and kept Washington (96-64) quiet for much of the game. Phillippe Aumont earned his second save by closing the game in the ninth.
Even without Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins in their lineup, the Phillies were able to generate offense first, and that proved to be enough on this night.
Washington starter John Lannan (4-1) struggled early, allowing the two-run triple to Ruf in the second inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
Kendrick was able to battle through a two-on, one-out jam in the bottom of the second by getting Lannan to ground into force play.
Philadelphia threatened again in the fourth when Ty Wigginton singled and Domonic Brown doubled to put men on second and third with one out. But after an intentional walk, first baseman Adam LaRoche grabbed Michael Martinez's grounder and quickly stepped on first and threw home to get Wigginton easily at the plate for Washington's third double play.
Kendrick got the Nationals to hit the ball on the ground early as 11 of his first 12 outs were groundouts. He also was able to get LaRoche and Michael Morse called out on strikes to end scoring threats in the fifth and sixth innings.
Nationals reliever Craig Stammen struck out six consecutive batters during his time on the mound. With Lannan's strikeout to end the fifth, the Nationals' matched a team record with seven consecutive strikeouts, but that didn't help them much on this night.
NOTES: Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he would prefer to begin the postseason on Sunday, Oct. 7. If the Nationals clinch the division, they could also start on Saturday, Oct. 6. Johnson would like to have his 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez pitch Sunday on five days rest. The left-hander is listed as Tuesday's starter against the Phillies...Nationals' catcher Kurt Suzuki has started 10 straight games and Johnson said he will keep him in for the duration...The Phillies need one win in the series to guarantee a winning record in the regular season and a season series victory over the Nationals...Rollins (calf) and Howard (broken toe) were not in the starting lineup Monday.