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Instant analysis: Nats 4, Phillies 2

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Instant analysis: Nats 4, Phillies 2

Game in a nutshell: After clinching the NL East title last night, Davey Johnson decided to rest nearly every regular and fielded a lineup more reminiscent of a split-squad Grapefruit League game than an early October game for a pennant contender. He also sat Gio Gonzalez and turned to his bullpen to churn out nine innings. And you know what? The Nationals still managed to win their 97th game of the season.

That puts them on the precipice of clinching the best record in the NL and the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. If the Reds lose to the Cardinals tonight, that race will be over. Otherwise, the Nationals will merely need to win tomorrow's season finale (or have the Reds lose) to ensure an NLDS showdown with the winner of Friday night's Wild Card game.

Hitting highlight: He's been Mr. Consistent all season for the Nationals, and in possibly his final game of the regular season -- if he's given tomorrow off -- Adam LaRoche delivered once again. The veteran first baseman drew a walk in the second, doubled and scored in the fourth and belted the go-ahead homer in the sixth. That was LaRoche's 33rd home run of the season (his new career-high) and produced his 100th RBI (matching his career-high). That blast drew a curtain call from the crowd of 33,546, which later serenaded LaRoche with chants of "MVP! MVP!" He won't be taking home any hardware this winter, but the mere fact it's mentioned is testament to his importance on this team all season.

Pitching highlight: By choosing to rest Gonzalez in advance of Game 1 of the NLDS, Johnson was left to use Johnny Wholestaff to pitch this game. First up was Tom Gorzelanny, making his first start since July 23, 2011.

The lefty delivered a solid performance, allowing one run over a 3 23 innings while throwing 65 pitches. Gorzelanny probably has the most thankless job on the pitching staff, but he's quietly done yeoman's work, posting a 2.88 ERA in 45 appearances.

His bullpen mates picked up right where he left off, with Christian Garcia, Zach Duke and Ryan Mattheus combining to toss 3 13 scoreless innings and set things up for the back end of the relief corps. Tyler Clippard did serve up a homer to brand-new Nat killer Darin Ruf, but Drew Storen closed out the ninth to cap a collective victory for the Nationals pitching staff.

Key stat: With a fifth-inning base hit to right, Bryce Harper raised his batting average to .270. That's up 22 points over his last 33 games.

Up next: Game 162 tomorrow afternoon starts at 1:05 p.m., with Edwin Jackson squaring off against Cliff Lee. Thus will conclude the Nationals' eighth regular season ... and commence their first-ever postseason.

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Dusty Baker already preparing Nats rookies for pressure of playoffs

Dusty Baker already preparing Nats rookies for pressure of playoffs

No matter how much MLB regular season experience a player has, that first taste of playoff baseball is always an adjustment. Veterans Daniel Murphy and Ben Revere each spoke about it this past winter when they signed with the Nats. Despite boasting a combined 15 years of MLB experience, both admitted there was an initial shock when they played their first career postseason games last fall. They both mentioned the butterflies and how unexpected that feeling was.

Playoff baseball is just different and, if it took an adjustment for those two, you can imagine what it will be like next week when Nationals rookies like Trea Turner, Pedro Severino and Reynaldo Lopez, as well as youngsters like Joe Ross, take the field for the first time in the postseason. It will be intense and manager Dusty Baker is already talking to his young players about what to expect.

"I've been prepping them every day. I've been telling them 'hey man, it don't matter how old you are, just go out there.' I've been telling them about David and Goliath. I've been telling them about every story I can think of about a young dude that went out there and was brave, whether it was an American-Indian warrior, or what," Baker explained. 

Turner, Severino and Ross will definitely be on hand when the Nationals take on the Dodgers in Game 1. Turner is in the starting lineup, Severino is entrenched as one of the team's two catchers and Ross will be in the rotation.

Lopez is also looking more and more like a lock with the way Baker has been talking about him.

"He could be a one-inning guy, but it just depends. We’d like to try to put him into situations where he’ll most likely succeed," Baker said of Lopez. "Is he ready for that right now? Do you want to find that out in the playoffs?"

Lopez is not counting his eggs before they hatch. He knows he's pitched well lately, with just two earned runs allowed across nine innings in his last two appearances. But he knows his spot is not official yet.

"If God blesses me with that opportunity, I feel like I’m ready and willing to help out the team any way I can to help out the team and hopefully win," he said through an interpreter.

Turner, Severino and Lopez will give the Nats at least three rookies on their playoff roster. There are others with outside chances to crack the final 25, including Koda Glover and Wilmer Difo.

Regardless, Baker will have to rely on some inexperienced players on a stage they've never played on before. 

"It doesn't matter, age at this point. It's how you control your nerves. There are some guys out there, even though they might be veterans, they might be more nervous than some of these kids. Some of these kids, sometimes they don't know what to be nervous about. I'm not afraid to run those kids out there," he said.

[RELATED: Scherzer argues Metro should stay open later for Nats playoffs]

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Jayson Werth out of Nats lineup as they host Marlins

Jayson Werth out of Nats lineup as they host Marlins

Nats (93-67) vs. Miami Marlins (79-80) at Nationals Park

Jayson Werth is out of the Nationals' lineup as they continue their series against the Miami Marlins on Saturday, as the veteran outfielder is nursing back tightness that he suffered in Friday night's loss. Manager Dusty Baker said it was a precaution to keep him out, that they are not worried the injury will persist.

In Werth's place playing left field is Michael Taylor. Ryan Zimmerman is back in the lineup after taking Friday night off. They will play behind Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.86), who will be pitching his final tuneup before the playoffs begin.

Roark has had some trouble with Miami this season. He's 1-4 with a 5.02 ERA against them. Roark was good, however, just two starts ago in Miami when he tossed seven innings of one-run ball.

First pitch: 4:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Tanner Roark vs. Miami Marlins - Wei-Yin Chen

NATS 

CF Trea Turner
LF Michael Taylor
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Wilmer Difo
C Pedro Severino
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Tanner Roark

MARLINS

2B Derek Dietrich
SS Miguel Rojas
CF Christian Yelich
1B Justin Bour
RF Jeff Francoeur
3B Chris Johnson
LF Destin Hood
C Jeff Mathis
LHP Wei-Yin Chen