Game 158: Nationals at Cardinals

Adam Berry here at Busch Stadium, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

Even after being handed their most lopsided loss of the season last night, the Nationals can still clinch the National League East title tonight. Their magic number as of this moment is two, down one from yesterday afternoon thanks to Lucas Duda’s three-run homer that pushed the Mets past the Braves.

To break out the champagne tonight, Washington must beat St. Louis and hope the Mets once again beat the Braves.

“It’s possible that Atlanta could lose and we could win, and we could clinch it. That’s always a good feeling,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Saturday afternoon. “Probably do a little more scoreboard-watching than usual, but it’s real easy to scoreboard-watch now. … All you’ve got to do is glance up there.”

One thing to note about that: New York and Atlanta are scheduled for a 7:10 p.m. ET first pitch, and this game is slated to begin at 7:15 p.m. ET. If the Nationals win and the Braves and Mets get locked up in a long game, the Nats could have somewhat of a delayed celebration — win, head back into the clubhouse, watch the game on TV and then, if the result swings their way, start popping champagne bottles.

Something else to keep an eye on: The Nationals can officially lock down home-field advantage in the NLDS tonight with a win and a Giants loss. San Francisco plays in San Diego at 8:35 p.m. ET. Of course, home-field advantage isn’t even a great term for it in the NLDS — the Nats’ opponent would host the first two games of the series before playoff baseball finally, technically, returned to Washington, D.C.

But for any of that stuff to matter later tonight, obviously the Nationals would have to beat the Cardinals with these lineups taking the field…

Cardinals (85-72)
Jay CF
Carpenter 3B
Holliday LF
Craig 1B
Molina C
Beltran RF
Schumaker 2B
Kozma SS
Lohse RHP

Nationals (95-62)
Werth RF
Harper CF
Zimmerman 3B
LaRoche 1B
Morse LF
Desmond SS
Espinosa 2B
Suzuki C
Zimmermann RHP

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