WASHINGTON -- Nearing their first playoff berth since arriving in Washington, the Nationals scratched out a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opening game of a doubleheader Wednesday, supporting Jordan Zimmermann's six innings of one-run pitching with two RBI groundouts and a sacrifice fly.
The win was the Nationals' 90th, the most for a Major League Baseball club in the nation's capital since 1933 -- also the last time a D.C. team played beyond the regular season.
Pitching on seven days' rest because of Monday's scheduled day off and Tuesday's rainout, Zimmermann (11-8) kept putting runners on base and working around it. He allowed six hits, walked four and hit a batter, but Hanley Ramirez's RBI single in the third produced the Dodgers' only run.
Four relievers followed Zimmermann, combining to allow three hits across four shutout innings. Sean Burnett got out of a potentially troublesome spot in the seventh by striking out Adrian Gonzalez with runners on the corners, and Tyler Clippard pitched the ninth for his 32nd save in 35 chances.
Another victory in the day's second game would allow the Nationals to assure themselves of no worse than a wild-card berth.
But everyone associated with the franchise, which moved from Montreal before the 2005 season, insists the real goal is an NL East division title -- followed by more success in the postseason.
As general manager Mike Rizzo put it Wednesday: "Clinching a playoff berth is just one of the small steps in our grand plan."
The Nationals pushed across runs in the second, fifth and sixth innings. Two came off Dodgers starter Aaron Harang (9-10), who threw 4 2/3 innings and gave up seven hits.
Kurt Suzuki delivered a sac fly in the second, and Washington went up 2-1 in the fifth. Teenager Bryce Harper hustled his way to a triple after lining a ball barely out of the second baseman's reach and to the wall in right-center.
Ryan Zimmerman, who was slated to get a cortisone shot before the game for a bothersome right shoulder, followed with an RBI groundout to bring home Harper.
Harper's triple was his eighth, the most by a Nationals player in a season since the club moved to Washington.
Another RBI groundout, this one by pinch-hitter Tyler Moore, made it 3-1 in the sixth.
Playing two days after getting a cortisone shot for a painful left shoulder, Washington 2B Danny Espinosa made a couple of fine sliding, spinning plays to record groundouts. He also singled in each of his first two at-bats. ... Dodgers LF Shane Victorino stole two bases to raise his season total to 37, tying a career high. ... Nationals manager Davey Johnson said offseason surgery to clean out Zimmerman's shoulder "will definitely be seriously considered." Rizzo said that if Zimmerman does have an operation, "He'd certainly be ready for whenever spring training begins." ... Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said LHP Clayton Kershaw (sore right hip) has started to play catch. Kershaw won't pitch in a game until he throws off a mound, which hasn't been scheduled yet. ... Mattingly said he would have preferred to play at 10 p.m. Tuesday night, if possible, rather than a doubleheader Wednesday. "Trying to win two in one day is tough," he said.