Originally posted on The Nats Blog old  |  Last updated 9/28/12

After winning their series in Philadelphia and reducing their magic number to three, the Washington Nationals (95-61) will finish out their final road trip of the season against the St. Louis Cardinals (84-72) at Busch Stadium.

Last year's World Series champs are three games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers and four games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the race for the second Wild Card spot. Their magic number to clinch that spot is four, but the way it all shakes out will be interesting to watch, as the Cardinals' two main opponents have significantly easier schedules down the backstretch. The Dodgers will play the Colorado Rockies and the San Francisco Giants, and the Brewers will play the Houston Astros and the San Diego Padres. Among those teams are some of the worst records in baseball. But the Cardinals have to face the two teams with the overall best records -- the Nationals and the Cincinnati Reds.

By sweeping the Cardinals, the Nationals could not only clinch the NL East division title before returning to Washington, they could also nearly eliminate St. Louis from postseason contention.

Davey’s not sweating

The pressure will certainly be on for these two teams, as this series could significantly affect both of them. However, Nationals manager Davey Johnson isn’t concerned with putting any extra pressure on the team through the final six games.

"They're all big games," Johnson said, according to MLB.com. "The first game we played of the year is a big game. I never try to get too upset or too giddy when you win a bunch. ... One-hundred sixty two games is a long time, so you need to maintain an even keel."

Despite Davey’s level head, Nationals and Cardinals fans everywhere will surely rest easier if this series goes they way they’d like.
Since last time

Washington creamed the Cardinals at the beginning of the month, winning three of four games and seriously outscoring them, plating 31 runs to St. Louis' 14. Since then, the Cardinals have gone 12-10, and the Nats have gone 14-9.

The Cardinals offense has been sub-standard this month. Their slash line of .252/.330/.387 (15th, 13th, 18th) for September is well behind their .271/.337/.421 slash line for the year (4th, 1st, 9th), and their average runs-per-game is down to four, from their yearly average of five.

The Nationals offense, however, has been above their yearly mark this month. They have been consistently hitting the ball well, and their .280/.341/.493 September slash-line shows it, ranking third, fourth, and first, respectively, among MLB teams. Putting up numbers like those has continued to boost their overall slash-line up to .262/.323/.427 (9th, 11th, 6th).

Homecoming for Jackson

Getting the ball in the series opener, Edwin Jackson will pitch in Busch Stadium for the first time since October of last year when he pitched Game 4 of the National League Division Series for a Cardinals victory over the Phillies.
Despite being such an integral part of the Cards’ postseason success last year, Jackson will take the mound with the hopes of stalling their march to the playoffs in what hopefully will be a repeat performance of the last time he faced them.
When he pitched to the Cardinals in August, Jackson was absolutely dominant, going eight innings with 10 strikeouts and just one earned run.
Worth noting

- Catcher Yadier Molina’s career batting average off Jackson is .700 with one home run.

- Both Adam LaRoche (98) and Ryan Zimmerman (94) could reach 100 RBI this series. It would be LaRoche's second 100-RBI season and Zimmerman's third. The only other National to reach the century mark was Adam Dunn in 2009 and 2010.

- Third baseman David Freese hasn't played in a game since Sunday, after spraining his right ankle. It has not yet been determined if he will be cleared to play against the Nationals.

Who's hot?

Allen Craig (OF) .324 AVG, .324 OBP, .471 SLG, 1 HR, 7 RBI (last eight games)

Pete Kozma (SS) .316 AVG, .391 OBP, .789 SLG, 2 HR, 6 RBI (last six games)

Jason Mott (CL) 0.00 ERA, .105 BAA, 1 BB, 11 SO, 6 SV (last six games)

Who's not?

Carlos Beltran (OF) .150 AVG, .227 OBP, .300 SLG, 8 SO (last six games)

Jon Jay (OF) .207 AVG, .233 OBP, .310 SLG, 6 SO (last six games)

Probable starters

Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.77 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (13-13, 4.02 ERA)

Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 2.90 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.77 ERA)

Ross Detwiler (10-7, 3.28 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (17-7, 3.69 ERA)

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