Instant analysis: Nats 5, Phillies 1

Instant analysis: Nats 5, Phillies 1
October 3, 2012, 8:19 pm
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Game in a nutshell: Knowing they could clinch the No. 1 seed for the NL playoffs with a victory today -- regardless of the result of the Reds' game tonight in St. Louis -- the Nationals went out and took care of business. Edwin Jackson tossed 6 23 strong innings to rebound from his disastrous last start. Ryan Zimmerman, Tyler Moore and Michael Morse all blasted home runs to pace the offensive attack. Shoot, they even let Teddy win the Presidents Race for the first time, eliciting a huge roar from the announced crowd of 37,075. And by finishing off the Phillies, the Nationals finished with a 98-64 record, locking up the top seed for the postseason. Game 1 of the NLDS will be Sunday at the winner of Friday's Wild Card game between the Braves and Cardinals, with Game 2 on Monday. The series will come to Nationals Park for Games 3-5 Wednesday through Friday. The Reds and Giants will open their NLDS on Saturday in San Francisco.

Hitting highlight: Who knew all it would take to bring the Nationals' bats alive was a giant-headed Teddy winning the Presidents Race? Whether that had an actual impact or not, facts are facts: Moments after the fourth-inning race, Zimmerman crushed his 25th homer of the season, tying the game 1-1. Morse and Moore immediately followed with back-to-back doubles, giving the Nationals the lead. Two innings later, Moore belted his 10th homer of the season, providing a key insurance run. And then Morse added the final blow, a two-run shot in the eighth. Ah, the power of Teddy.

Pitching highlight: Coming off a disastrous start in St. Louis, Jackson was in serious need of a bounce-back performance. He delivered big-time. The right-hander allowed one run over 6 23 innings, walking only one batter while striking out six and keeping his pitch count at 97. And thanks to some run support, he was rewarded with his 10th win of the season, joining the other four members of the Nationals' Opening Day rotation in double digits. Would Jackson have been in danger of losing his rotation spot for the postseason based on his September struggles? Probably not. But this standout performance should ensure he starts either Game 3 or 4 of the NLDS next week.

Key stat: With an announced crowd today of 37,075, the Nationals ended the regular season with a total attendance of 2,370,794 over 79 home dates. That averages out to 30,010 per date, the franchise's highest total since the inaugural 2005 season at RFK Stadium.

Up next: The regular season is over, but now the real fun begins. The Nationals will get the next three days off, then they'll hit the road for Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Sunday, facing the winner of Friday's Wild Card game between the Braves and Cardinals.