Earning the NL's best record doesn't matter much to Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson, so the regular-season finale might include few of his regulars.
There will be one on the mound, however, for a game that may be rather insignificant to his manager but fairly meaningful for Edwin Jackson.
Though his spot in the playoff rotation appears to be safe, Jackson has been very inconsistent of late. He's looking to rebound from a dreadful outing as he faces the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, whose season comes to a fitting end Wednesday - against the team that ended their NL East reign and with Cliff Lee taking the hill.
Washington (97-64) has recorded the winningest season in franchise history and is tied with Cincinnati for the league's top record. Owning that season series tiebreaker means the Nationals can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win Wednesday or a loss by the Reds.
"I don't know how it's that important," Johnson said. "You've got to beat the teams you play."
The franchise notched its first division title since 1981 on Monday, then Washington came back to win 4-2 on Tuesday despite Johnson sitting all but two of his everyday players.
"I'm rewarding the guys that have been grinding through a tough schedule," Johnson said. "... Set back, gather your thoughts, we'll get back up tomorrow, and go from there."
The only regulars in Washington's lineup were September NL rookie of the month Bryce Harper and slugger Adam LaRoche, who set a career high with his 33rd homer and tied another with his 100th RBI.
Johnson also skipped 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez's scheduled start but won't do the same for Jackson (9-11, 4.13 ERA).
Twice in his last six outings, the veteran right-hander allowed one run over eight innings, but he has an 11.12 ERA in the other four. On Friday, he recorded as many walks as outs - four - and surrendered a season-high nine runs in a 12-2 defeat at St. Louis.
"We can't afford to have anything linger," Jackson said. "You take away what you could have done differently and continue to move on."
Jackson is still expected to start Game 3 or 4 of the division series.
"Just one bad outing," Johnson told the team's official website. "He doesn't get in my doghouse for that."
He's lost all four career starts against the Phillies, including three this season, while posting a 5.32 ERA.
Lee has won his two starts this year against Washington, yielding one run in 14 innings, but that's accounted for one-third of his victories.
If he has a 10th straight quality start and doesn't win, Lee (6-8, 3.12) will become the third pitcher in big-league history to finish with six victories or fewer despite having an ERA under 3.20 through at least 30 starts. Only five have recorded no more than seven wins.
Lee will have a losing record for the first time since 2007, mainly because his 3.25 run support average is fourth-lowest in the majors. Every other pitcher among the NL's top 25 in ERA has at least 10 victories.
The left-hander is 4-1 with a 1.07 ERA in his past seven outings, but Philadelphia will miss the postseason after winning the last five East titles.
"It's disappointing. I think everyone here could agree with that," Lee said after allowing one run and three hits in seven innings of a 2-1 defeat at Miami on Friday. "We expected to win this division, make the postseason, and win the World Series ultimately."
The Phillies (81-80) are trying to avoid not finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2002.
September call-up Darin Ruf had two solo homers Tuesday and has driven in all seven of Philadelphia's runs in its last three games against Washington.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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