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Instant analysis: Cardinals 12, Nats 2

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Instant analysis: Cardinals 12, Nats 2

Game in a nutshell: Not a whole lot to say about this one, other than to point out how bad Edwin Jackson was during a miserable 1 13 innings on the mound. The right-hander was torched for nine runs (eight earned), putting his team in a 9-1 hole in the second inning. Not much else mattered after that, with Davey Johnson pulling seven of his eight regulars (everyone except Danny Espinosa), choosing to live to fight another day. And yet the night really wasn't a lost cause for the Nationals, because Lucas Duda's 3-run homer in Atlanta led the Mets to a 3-1 win and spoiled Chipper Jones Night for the Braves. Thus the Nationals somehow managed to get blown out yet still see their magic number drop to 2. Which means they can clinch the NL East title tomorrow night with a win plus another Braves loss. Kind of takes the sting out of this ugly performance, doesn't it?

Hitting lowlight: It's tough find much motivation when you step to the plate trailing by eight runs, so it's hard to find too much fault with the Nationals' hitting approach in this one. They did get a couple of nice at-bats in the top of the first out of Bryce Harper (who doubled) and Adam LaRoche (who battled through a 10-pitch encounter with Adam Wainwright to poke an RBI single). That was the 95th run Harper has scored this season, so he needs five more in the season's final five games to become only the second teenager ever to score 100 runs.

Pitching lowlight: In his defense, Jackson wasn't helped by his defense in the first inning, with Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman bobbling the ball. And he allowed a couple of soft singles. But that doesn't overshadow everything else the right-hander did wrong. He walked four batters. Uncorked two wild pitches. Threw only 25 of 56 pitches for strikes. Faced 15 batters and retired only three of them (one a 380-foot bomb to the warning track, another a double play hit by the pitcher). Thus continued Jackson's difficult September. He's now got a 7.92 ERA in five starts this month. His season ERA jumped from 3.77 to 4.13 in this outing alone. That's not easy to do this late in the year. The way things are trending, you certainly have to think Ross Detwiler will be Davey Johnson's No. 3 starter in the postseason, with Jackson bumped to the fourth slot.

Key stat: With his first-inning RBI single, LaRoche now has 99 for the season. That's one shy of his career high, set in 2010 with the Diamondbacks.

Up next: It's the moment you've been waiting 79 years to experience: Washington's baseball club has a chance to clinch a title tomorrow night. Jordan Zimmermann will face Kyle Lohse at 7:15 p.m. EDT, hoping to earn his 13th win, and hoping the Mets can beat the Braves again and secure the NL East crown for the Nationals.

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Bryce Harper reportedly will come off the disabled list tomorrow

Bryce Harper reportedly will come off the disabled list tomorrow

Bryce Harper's (probably) back. 

With just over two weeks left in the regular season, the Nationals star is set to be activated off the disabled list, according to the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes:

Harper hasn't played since August 12, when he slipped awkwardly on the first base bag while trying to beat out a grounder. He suffered a signifcant bone bruise, although the injury looked considerably worse than it ended up being. 

Before getting hurt, Harper was hitting .326/.419/.614 on the year with a 1.034 OPS and 29 home runs. 

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

NEW YORK -- Travis d'Arnaud hit two home runs and the New York Mets ended a three-game skid, rallying past a watered-down lineup of Washington Nationals 7-6 on Friday night.

Washington manager Dusty Baker said he needed to "give my big boys much needed rest" with the playoffs nearing, and not a single regular started for the NL East champions. Star Daniel Murphy pinch hit in the eighth and flied out.

MORE NATS: RATHER HAVE THE CUBS, BREWERS, OR CARDINALS IN NLDS?

The Nationals begin the Division Series in exactly two weeks. If the current standings hold, they would host the World Series champion Chicago Cubs to open the best-of-five matchup.

Adam Lind hit a three-run homer for Washington. It was the Nationals' 203rd home run this season, matching the franchise record dating to 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos.

Howie Kendrick had an RBI double and prized prospect Victor Robles lined a two-run triple in the fifth that put Washington ahead 6-1.

Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley exited in the eighth inning because of an apparent injury. He' has struggled this season and missed more than two months because of back problems.

Nori Aoki had three hits for the Mets, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning off Joe Blanton (2-4).

Chasen Bradford (2-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Jeurys Familia, the Mets' third pitcher in the ninth inning, came on to strike out Robles with runners on first and third for his fourth save -- his first since May 5. Familia, who missed three months after surgery to repair a blood clot, entered as part of a double switch, with Kevin Plawecki taking over at catcher for d'Arnaud.

D'Arnaud hit a solo homer in the second and connected for a tying, three-run drive in the fifth that finished starter Edwin Jackson. That gave d'Arnaud a career-best 15 homers and marked his second multihomer game, the other coming in April against Washington.

MORE MLB: POSTSEASON BRACKET PROJECTION (THURSDAY)

Mets starter Robert Gsellman allowed six runs in five innings. He moved up a day to pitch in place of ace Jacob deGrom, who was moved back in the rotation until Sunday because of a stomach illness this week.