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ATL@WSH: Jackson strikes out nine over seven frames

After Ian Desmond's throw home sailed wide of catcher Kurt Suzuki in the ninth inning on Friday, the Nats handed the Braves a series-opening win that kept their magic number for clinching a playoff spot at four. As for wrapping up the National League East, Washington's magic number lies at 11.

Nats manager Davey Johnson obviously is eager to secure the franchise's first playoff berth since 1981 and the city's first playoff appearance since the 1933 Washington Senators. But as long as the possibility remains of someone else taking hold of the division, Washington's skipper won't rest easy.

"It's not a big moment," Johnson said of the Nats locking up a playoff spot soon. "It's a nice moment, but it's not a big moment.

"Like I said, the additional Wild Card, to me, just put more of a burden on the manager, because nobody wants that one [and have to play a one-game playoff to advance]. ... In the [old] format, if you were the Wild Card, you're in the playoffs. So clinching a one-game playoff doesn't have any appeal at all to me."

Rather than think about the one-game playoff, the Nats are taking a one-game-at-a-time mentality. In that regard, Edwin Jackson is an interesting pitcher to be taking the mound on Saturday given the way he was shellacked by the Marlins in his last time out on Sept. 9. The right-hander lasted only 4 2/3 innings while surrendering six runs on nine hits in an 8-0 loss.

"He is said he was fine, but [pitching coach Steve McCatty] asked Jackson to speed up his tempo," Johnson said. "He was mad at me for taking him out. He said, 'I'll eat these innings.' He threw 80 pitches. ... For him to give up [nine] hits in less than five innings, that's a lot of hits. I didn't want to push him to the limit."

Jackson faced the Braves just once this season, back on July 21 in a 4-0 loss. He did pitch well, allowing just one run on five hits over seven innings.

Atlanta had lost four straight before Friday's win, which cut its deficit behind Washington to 7 1/2 games, and they have a solid hold on the top NL Wild Card spot.

Right-hander Tommy Hanson gets the start for Atlanta on Saturday having allowed just four runs in 11 1/3 innings over two September starts.

Nationals: Morse likely to miss series
Michael Morse sat out Friday's series-opening loss to the Braves and seems all but certain to miss the entire weekend set. Nursing a bone bruise and a slight tear in the sheath encasing his left wrist, the Nats' outfielder skipped batting practice on Friday and will be re-evaluated on Saturday.

While Morse sounded mostly pessimistic about facing the Braves in the final regular-season series between the two teams, Johnson went even further.

"I kind of knew it was being real optimistic that he could've been available [Friday]," Johnson said. "I think it's more likely next Tuesday, and he's still bothered by it."

The 30-year-old outfielder is batting .285 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs in 88 games.

• Before Friday's game, Johnson reiterated the Nats' rotation will remain unchanged moving forward. Johnson once gave Jordan Zimmermann extra rest, but in his case, that was specifically to treat shoulder soreness.

"I haven't skipped a fifth starter. I haven't done anything," Johnson said. "That one time, I did that little change in the rotation."

Braves: Friday rest gets Bourn going
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez held Michael Bourn out of Atlanta's starting lineup on Friday, though he did pinch-hit his center fielder late in the 2-1 win. Bourn responded by going 1-for-2 with a single in the bottom of the ninth to put Andrelton Simmons, the winning run, in scoring position.

Bourn's response was a welcome sight considering he entered the game batting .169 (10-for-59) with a .286 on-base percentage over his previous 16 games.

Worth noting
• The Nationals' next win will be their 90th of the season, and it will mark the first 90-win season the franchise has enjoyed since the 1933 Senators win 99 games.

• The Braves will be on the road for six of their next eight games and nine of their final 17 games of the season. Comments