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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, September 21st (All times eastern)

Milwaukee Brewers (77-72) at Washington Nationals (91-58), 7:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Milwaukee - Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.91) Washington - Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.89)

(Sports Network) - With their first playoff berth in 31 years officially clinched, the Washington Nationals can turn their attention to the NL East crown.

The Nats, though, face perhaps the hottest team in baseball as they begin a four-game series with the hard-charging Milwaukee Brewers on Friday evening.

When Drew Storen struck out the side on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he sealed off a 4-1 victory that was the Nationals' 91st win of the season. That clinched at least a wild card berth for the club, giving the franchise its first playoff spot since the 1981 Montreal Expos.

It's the first time in 79 years that a team from Washington D.C. has made the postseason since the 1933 Washington Senators fell to the New York Giants in the World Series.

"This is definitely a meaningful moment," Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth said of the momentous win. "We'll celebrate tonight and go back to work tomorrow."

Work for the Nats now means a division title. Washington owns a 5 1/2-game lead over the second-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East, giving it a magic number of eight to claim the top spot.

The Braves visit the Philadelphia Phillies for three games this weekend.

Washington faces its own challenge in Milwaukee, which has won five straight, eight of nine and 19 of its past 24 to get back into the playoff chase. The Brewers logged a 9-7 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday to remain 2 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL's second wild card spot.

Milwaukee avoided a loss on Thursday when Aramis Ramirez ripped a go-ahead RBI single to cap a four-run eighth inning. Ramirez also homered in the 9-7 win.

"It would have been easy for us to not fight and come back, and the guys keep doing it," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of his team's come-from-behind victory.

Hoping for his first victory since June 8, the struggling Shaun Marcum takes the mound tonight for the Brewers.

Marcum will be making his sixth start since missing two-plus months due to injury and has allowed four runs in each of his last three outings. The righty has also pitched past the fifth inning just once since his return and lasted only four frames in a no-decision versus the New York Mets on Saturday.

"Shaun didn't have good command. He's a command pitcher but he didn't have it," said Roenicke. "I don't know what the reason is. I thought his stuff was good, his fastball was good, but his location wasn't."

The 30-year-old is 5-4 with a 3.91 earned run average in 18 starts this season and will face the Nationals franchise for the second time in his career. He would love to duplicate the first, when he got the win after giving up two runs on three hits -- two solo homers -- over seven innings while striking out 11.

The Nationals turn to Edwin Jackson, who is 9-10 with a 3.89 ERA through 28 starts this season and did not factor into a 5-4 loss to the Braves on Saturday.

The 29-year-old right-hander was charged with four runs -- three earned -- on four hits, two homers and a walk, also striking out seven over 5 1/3 innings.

Jackson was excellent in a win over the Brewers back on July 26, logging seven scoreless innings while scattering eight hits and a walk with four strikeouts. He moved to 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA lifetime in the series.

The Nationals took three of four in that series at Milwaukee and won all three meetings at home versus the Brewers last season.

09/21 10:41:10 ET