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ATL@PHI: Kendrick tops the Braves for his 10th win

The Nationals have the opportunity to work toward a pair of goals when they face the Phillies on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The first is straightforward. Washington, which already clinched a playoff spot, has a magic number of five for the National League East title. The Nationals' lead over the Braves is down to four games after they dropped Tuesday's opener to the Phillies, and the Braves notched a walk-off win over the Marlins.

The second goal is all about payback. The Phillies are the five-time defending division champions, but with their 2012 postseason hopes hanging by a thread, the Nationals can give them a final push toward elimination. Any combination of Philadelphia losses and St. Louis wins adding up to three will do the job.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who spent some time with the Phillies during his playing career, wants to be the one to make it happen.

"As an ex-Phillie, I'd like nothing more than that," Johnson said before Tuesday's game. "It's a great ballclub over here. They've set a great tradition of winning all the time."

Johnson will send John Lannan to the mound on Wednesday, as the lefty makes his fifth start this season and third since inheriting Stephen Strasburg's rotation spot. Lannan posted a 2.41 ERA in his first three outings but surrendered six runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday.

"John seemed to be all over the place," Johnson said afterward. "He was wild a couple of innings. It was not one of his better outings."

The Phillies will counter with Kyle Kendrick (10-11, 3.89 ERA), who owns a 2.37 mark in four games -- including three starts -- against the Nationals this season. He also has recorded a quality start in seven of his last eight tries, with a 2.17 ERA and 43-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

On Friday, the righty held Atlanta to two runs in 6 2/3 innings, striking out six.

"Kendrick was pretty good," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I take it back, he was really good. We knew going in, he was throwing more changeups. He did. He threw a lot of changeups to us. We just couldn't time him."

Nationals: No time off yet for regulars
Johnson has said he will rest his starters once Washington clinches the division. But until that point, it will be full speed ahead.

"We're in a pennant race, and we take nothing for granted in a pennant race," Johnson said. "We've still gotta win five games. Talking about resting them is real premature. There's no rest right now. And I don't think they're tired."

• Left fielder Michael Morse was in Tuesday's lineup and went 1-for-4 a day after sitting out and receiving an anti-inflammatory shot for his ailing left wrist. Johnson said that doctors have determined that Morse won't hurt the wrist any more by continuing to play.

Phillies: Ruf gets his shot, takes advantage
Darin Ruf blasted 38 home runs for Double-A Reading this season, 17 more than any other player in the Eastern League.

The 26-year-old got his first big league start on Tuesday, playing left field. In his first plate appearance of the game and fourth of his career, Ruf pulled a home run into the left-field seats off the Nationals' Ross Detwiler and endured a long silent treatment from his teammates in the dugout. The former 20th-round Draft pick finished the game 2-for-3.

• The Phillies now have eight games remaining in which to experiment with Chase Utley at third base, as they recently indicated they might do if they are eliminated from contention.

"I feel like we've got time if we want to try Chase over there," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Worth noting
• The Phillies have won five straight games against the Nationals at home.

• Lannan is 1-5 with a 7.06 ERA in seven career outings at Citizens Bank Park, including 1-2 with a 9.00 mark in three games last season.

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