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Instant analysis: Dodgers 7, Nats 6

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Instant analysis: Dodgers 7, Nats 6

Game in a nutshell: How to put this one into words? Well, when the eighth inning began, the Nationals were trailing 6-0, having seen John Lannan get roughed up while seeing Josh Beckett dominate. Many in the crowd decided to leave. Davey Johnson decided to bench several of his regulars, including Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. It appeared the Nats would have to wait another night to attempt to clinch a playoff berth. Then Johnson watched as the rest of his lineup stormed back to score six times in the bottom of the eighth and incredibly tie this game. Except then Tyler Clippard served up a towering home run to Matt Kemp to open the top of the ninth, and that entire rally went for naught. (It did make an earlier blown call by plate umpire Alan Porter -- resulting in a run for the Dodgers -- loom large, though.) In the end, the Nationals will have to wait at least one more day to clinch.

Hitting highlight: For seven innings, there were no hitting highlights. Zero. Zilch. Then Michael Morse led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo homer off Beckett. Then Steve Lombardozzi belted a two-run shot. Then Adrian Gonzalez booted a sharp grounder to first. Then Mark DeRosa singled to right. Then Bryce Harper beat out a slow roller to third. Then Danny Espinosa singled to left, loading the bases. Then Morse, batting for the second time in the inning, drilled a two-run single to right to incredibly turn a 6-0 deficit into a 6-6 tie. It was one of the most remarkable rallies in Nationals history, and it brought life back to what remained of the crowd of 26,931. That is, until Clippard served up the homer to Kemp to lead off the ninth, making the eighth-inning rally moot.

Pitching lowlight: Lannan excelled in his three previous starts because of his ability to attack the strike zone, get ahead in the count and induce groundballs. And he labored through this start because he wasn't able to do any of those things. Lannan threw first-pitch strikes to only 9 of 22 batters faced, including a stretch of six consecutive batters to open the top of the third in which he didn't throw a first-pitch strike to anyone. He issued back-to-back, two-out walks during that inning, setting the stage for RBI hits by Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier. And he plunked Shane Victorino in the fourth, setting the stage for another three-run rally. It's only one bad start after three stellar ones, but this wasn't what the Nationals were looking for out of Lannan with a playoff berth at stake.

Key stat: Chien-Ming Wang and Josh Beckett combined to win 39 games ... in 2007.

Up next: They didn't clinch tonight, so the Nationals will give it another try tomorrow night when these two teams meet in the series finale. Ross Detwiler gets the start against fellow left-hander Chris Capuano at 7:05 p.m.

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What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs vs. Dodgers?

It was just a few weeks ago that Joe Ross' postseason availability was in question, and if he could return in time, whether he would pitch out of the Nationals' bullpen and or as a starter wasn't clear. Manager Dusty Baker wondered aloud if he would get his young right-hander back, even as Stephen Strasburg dealt with elbow injuries.

The progress Ross has made in a short period of time since is remarkable and after his 90-pitch outing on Thursday afternoon against the Diamondbacks, the 23-year-old looks and feels ready for the playoffs, and not just to pitch in relief, either.

"I'm hoping I get the opportunity to start, but that's up to them," Ross said. "But I'll take any opportunity I get to pitch and go out there and compete. I just want to help the team in any way I can."

Ross wasn't great on Thursday in his third start back from the disabled list. He only made it four innings, as his pitch count soared early. But in giving up just one run, he's now pitched 9 2/3 innings in three games back. During that stretch he's allowed three runs and struck out 14.

[RELATED: Wilson Ramos hopes to be back with Nationals]

It has been a process of baby steps for the Nats starter, a slow progression back from right shoulder inflammation, an injury rehab that featured a setback in late July. Now, though, he is essentially back to normal, just in time for the NL Division Series which begins next week.

"I feel good. I felt really good today. I felt really good last start. I guess it's just a point of executing pitches," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind really on whether I can go out and compete."

Baker mentioned that Ross could pitch in releif early in the NLDS against the Dodgers. That could keep him available for a start later on, if it's kept short like a normal bullpen session.

But one has to wonder if Ross has improved his case enough to pitch Game 3 of that series, given Gio Gonzalez' recent struggles. The lefty has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 23 innings going back five starts.

Regardless, Ross has certainly come a long way in just three MLB outings.

"He looks ready," second baseman Wilmer Difo said through an interpreter.

With all the negative injury news the Nationals have received in recent days, between Wilson Ramos' season-ending injury and Strasburg essentially ruled out for the NLDS, having Ross fully back in the mix is a nice change of fortune for the NL East champs.

[RELATED: Matt Belisle sounds like safe bet for Nats playoff roster]

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Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos knows his knee injury could mean the end of Nationals' tenure

Wilson Ramos won't be on the field for the Washington Nationals when the team takes on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. Divisional Series next week.

The 2016 N.L. All-Star catcher will undergo surgery to repair the ACL he tore in his right knee on Monday night against the Diamondbacks

Ramos has been arguably the Nationals' most constant offensive threat this season, and had positioned himself as the team's backstop for the foreseeable future.

But the injury changed everything.

Not just because the surgery and rehab will stretch well into Spring Training, but because the 29-year-old Ramos will become a free agent at the end of the season. On top of that, a second ACL injury (He tore it in 2012 as well) means that taking the field everyday as a catcher may not be a viable option for him much longer.

"Unfortunately, this injury happened so close to the end and it may affect whether I’m able to stay with a National League team or not," Ramos told reporters prior to the Nationals' 5-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Thursday afternoon.

"But if it’s up to me, I definitely would like to keep playing for the Nationals and play as long as I can."

Ramos is a solid defensive catcher, but his biggest strength is at the plate. Being able to be a part of a lineup everyday is where he is most valuable, and that may mean playing in the American League, where he can serve as the designated hitter and fill in as catcher.

But this doesn't mean Ramos is done as a member of the Nationals, just that he's aware his time could be coming to an end.