“Nats Clinch” flashed on the scoreboard as Washington ensured at least an NL wild-card spot behind Ross Detwiler’s six strong innings and Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI double.
Detwiler (10-6) allowed just Mark Ellis’ fourth-inning home run and two singles. He struck five and walked one. Drew Storen pitched the ninth for his third save.
A crowd of 30,359 stood and cheered in the ninth inning, then got even louder when Storen struck out former GreenJacket Hanley Ramirez to end it. Manager Davey Johnson saluted the fans as he left the field and the team wore caps acknowledging the playoff berth.
Washington’s magic number to win the NL East was reduced to eight. The Nationals lead idle Atlanta by 51/2 games.
The Nationals became the second team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot this year. Cincinnati sealed its slot earlier Thursday.
Washington was last in the postseason 79 years ago, when player-manager Joe Cronin and the Senators lost to the New York Giants in five games in the World Series.
Until this year, the Nationals had never had a winning season – nor finished above third place – since moving from Montreal for the 2005 season. It will be just the franchise’s second postseason berth and its first since the Expos came within a game of the World Series in 1981.
The Nationals lost more than 100 games in both 2008 and 2009, allowing them to draft pitcher Stephen Strasburg and center fielder Bryce Harper.
The loss dropped the Dodgers three games behind St. Louis for the NL’s second wild-card spot. Milwaukee moved ahead of Los Angeles with its win over Pittsburgh.
Zimmerman’s third-inning double scored Harper with Washington’s first run. After Zimmerman, the only Nationals player to appear in each of the team’s eight seasons, took third on an infield out and scored on a wild pitch by Chris Capuano (11-11).
The Nationals added two runs in the fourth on a walk to Ian Desmond, an RBI double by Danny Espinosa and a sacrifice fly by Kurt Suzuki.