Morse likely out for full Braves series, Nats not ready to celebrate yet

ATLANTA - It looks like the Nationals will be without Michael Morse for the entirety of this three-game series against the Braves.

Morse did not take batting practice today, as the Nationals had originally planned. He's going to give his ailing left wrist more time to rest, and according to manager Davey Johnson, isn't likely to suit up and play until Tuesday's game against the Dodgers at the earliest.

"He's still bothered by it, and I didn't think it was going to heal in 48 hours," Johnson said. "You don't want to run somebody out there who's hurt and they could hurt it worse. He's been nursing it for a month. The results haven't been that great, he's been getting some hits but he hasn't been hitting for power. So we just need him healthy."

Morse said he hasn't really tested out the wrist at all over the last couple days and has just been giving it some rest. He'll play it by ear and determine when he can get back in the cage and start swinging again.

Making Morse's absence easier to take is the Nationals' 8 1/2 game lead over the Braves in the NL East and also the fact that Johnson has viable options in Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina and Steve Lombardozzi who can fill in and play left for the time being.

Bernadina will get the start in left tonight with the Nats facing Braves right-hander Kris Medlen.

Meanwhile, since the Nationals' magic number to clinch a playoff spot is now down to four with the Dodgers' loss last night, it's possible that the Nats lock up at least a Wild Card as early as tomorrow.

Years ago, that sentence might have been cause for a massive celebration among fans and those within the organization. This year, with the Nats in a position to lock up the NL East title, the Wild Card is the last thing on everyone's minds.

"It's not a big moment," Johnson said. "It's a nice moment, but it's not a big moment."

Johnson has talked in the past about how little he values the Wild Cards this year with the new format that has the two non-division winners square off in a one-game play-in contest. Both teams need to burn their best starting pitcher just to have a shot at making the Divisional Round of the postseason.

That's why the Nats have their eyes set on the division title and not the Wild Card spot which they could lock up this weekend.

"The additional Wild Card, to me, just put more burden on the manager because nobody wants that one," Johnson said. "A one-game playoff to get 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."

Finally, Johnson said that Chien-Ming Wang is now an option in relief, even though it certainly appears he's unlikely to get many meaningful innings down the stretch. Wang has thrown a couple bullpen sessions lately, and Johnson confirmed that he won't be getting any starts over the guys he currently has.

"He's not beating anybody out in my rotation, although I like his stuff and I like his experience," Johnson said.

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