WASHINGTON -- The Nationals became the first team to secure a spot in the 2017 postseason when they clinched the National League East on Sunday afternoon. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg threw eight shutout innings to lead Washington to a 3-2 victory over the Phillies at Nationals Park, and the Braves beat the Marlins hours later to push the Nationals into the playoffs.
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It's the first time the Nationals have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and their fourth division title in the past six seasons.
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"This never gets old," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "Adults don't get to spray champagne and do stupid stuff in public. This is the only place you can do it."
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After the final out was made in Washington, some fans remained in their seats to watch the conclusion of the game in Atlanta on the scoreboard, waiting to see if a celebration was forthcoming. A few players went to the dugout at times to watch, but the team mostly watched and waited in the clubhouse, their celebration on hold as they cheered the Braves -- left-hander Giovany Gonzalez even put on the Braves' "tomahawk chop" song as Atlanta began to rally.
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"It's great. Now we're going to October," right-hander Max Scherzer said. "We know we're going to October, we know we're going to be a good team going into October, and that's all that matters."
Strasburg began the game by retiring the first 10 batters and held the Phillies to just two hits -- both by third baseman Maikel Franco -- as he struck out 10 and walked one in eight innings. He has now thrown 34 consecutive scoreless innings, the longest streak in the Majors this season and the longest streak in franchise history, and is rounding into dominant form as the postseason draws near.
"Strasburg was real good," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He had all his pitches working for him, and he was tough to hit. We got young guys who've never seen him before."
This was the final game in a stretch of 21 games in 20 days for the Nationals, which prompted manager Dusty Baker to rest his starters ahead of Monday's off-day to give them an extended break. Phillies right-hander Ben Lively took advantage and turned in a strong outing in just the 12th start of his Major League career. He held the Nats to three runs in eight innings, with seven strikeouts and one walk in the complete-game loss.
"He pitched very well. It's our first complete game of the year," said Mackanin. "Real happy about Lively's performance. Mixed it up, did a great job."
Added Lively: "That's just baseball. Two bad pitches, that was the ballgame. I felt great. I felt like my game plan was on point. Just two hangers."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Offense gets started:Trea Turner helped spark the Nationals' offense when he started the sixth inning with a triple, and Adrian Sanchez drove him in with a bloop double down the left-field line to finally get to Lively and put Washington on the board. Sanchez would later score on an RBI double from Victor Robles, the first career hit for the team's top prospect and No. 3 in MLB, as ranked by MLBPipeline.com.
Phillies rally, but Madson picks up save: The Phillies rallied in the ninth inning, with a two-run single from Nick Williams cutting the deficit to 3-2. Those were the first runs surrendered by right-hander Ryan Madson in his 13 appearances since joining the Nationals. But Madson bounced back to induce a groundout from Rhys Hoskins to secure his first save with Washington.
Phillies: After an off-day, the Phillies return home to face Miami for a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park. Tuesday's opener (first pitch 7:05 p.m. ET) will see Nick Pivetta square off against Marlins lefty Dillon Peters.
Nationals: Following an off-day on Monday, the Nationals welcome the Braves to Washington for the start of a three-game set on at Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will take the mound, and Jayson Werth (shoulder) is expected to be to the lineup for the first time since Wednesday.
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