The champagne will be in the house

ST. LOUIS - It's not often that a 10-run loss in the heat of a playoff race can be brushed aside so quickly.

Fortunately for the Nationals, they're in a position that allowed last night's 12-2 loss to the Cardinals to be put in the rear-view mirror as soon as they walked out of Busch Stadium.

Yes, they got whooped up on to the point that they'd essentially thrown in the towel in the fifth inning. It wasn't the prettiest game of the season, that's for sure.

But thanks to the New York Mets, the Nationals' most lopsided loss this year gets pushed into the background.

laroche high five dug out colorado sidebar.jpgHad the Mets not beaten the Braves last night, the story here would have been about how the Nats dropped another game to Atlanta in the race for the NL East title and now led the suddenly unstoppable Braves by just three games with five to go.

Instead, the Nationals are still up by four games with five regular season contests remaining on the schedule (meaning only a complete and utter collapse gives Atlanta the division), and their magic number now sits at two.

After what transpired last night, the Nats are just a win and a Braves loss from being able to pop open the champagne tonight in the visitor's clubhouse at Busch Stadium.

That's why they won't let the 12-2 loss linger. They know what's ahead of them.

"You're getting beat by 10 runs, you try to look at the positives in it," Adam LaRoche said. "Forget about this one."

Edwin Jackson's inconsistent play continued last night. He retired just three batters and allowed nine runs, making his September ERA 7.92.

The veteran right-hander is plenty capable of going out, throwing eight dominant innings and winning a big game, as he did two starts ago, but he also has struggled to get deep into games lately. The Nats would like to get Jackson back on track before the postseason and get his swagger back.

But those are issues for another day. Today, after all, could be the day the Nationals get to celebrate.

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