Home field advantage, 100 wins still on the table for Nats

ATLANTA - Just when you thought discussion of the Nationals ending up with the best record in the National League was finished, those wacky Dodgers have gone and brought up the possibility once again.

In losing three in a row to the lowly Phillies, Los Angeles has fallen back into its late season slide. This supposed super-team, which only a month ago was on pace to challenge the all-time record of 116 wins, has now lost 15 of its last 20.

And thanks to the Nationals' three-game winning streak, the NL's two best clubs are once again within striking distance of each other. The Dodgers (96-56) enter this afternoon's series finale in Philly only 3 1/2 games up on Washington (92-59).

Dusty Baker and Co. were willing to go for it last week when facing L.A. head-to-head. But after losing two of three in that high-profile series, they were staring at a seven-game deficit and seemed to concede that was the end of that.

Well, not so much anymore.

"We're not going to try to kill our guys to try to get to it, but if it's within reach, we're gonna go for it," Baker said following Wednesday night's win over the Braves. "Especially after last weekend, they beat us two out of three at our place. It looks like now they're struggling a little bit up in Philly. We're just going to try to win every game that we can."

Turns out Sunday night's 7-1 victory was bigger than you might have thought. It left the two teams tied in their head-to-head series for the season, with three wins a piece. That's the first postseason tiebreaker, should they end up with identical records.

The second tiebreaker? It's intradivision record. Even though they don't play in the same division. And so the Nationals (who have gone 44-25 in the admittedly weak NL East) would easily win that tiebreaker over the Dodgers (who have gone 34-33 in the much tougher NL West).

Yes, that's an odd way to break a tie between teams from different divisions, but that's how Major League Baseball does it. And because of that, if the Nats merely gain 3 1/2 games on the Dodgers over the season's final week and a half - and they only trail in the loss column by three games - they would end up with home-field advantage and a first-round round matchup not with the NL Central champs but the winner of the wild card game.

Is that a priority for the players at this point?

"Everyone is just trying to finish the season strong, getting ready for postseason," left-hander Gio Gonzalez said. "We want the guys in the best shape they can be in here, and get everyone right where they need to be ... even if it's 90 percent, better than sitting out and just letting the season go down to waste."

Even if they don't catch the Dodgers, there's another goal in the Nationals' sights: 100 wins. They've never done that before; the franchise record for wins (including the Expos years) is 98, set in 2012. In order to break that record, they need to go 7-4 the rest of the way. In order to get to 100, they need to go 8-3.

Baker-and-Bonds-sidebar.jpg"That was an important number when the season started for me," Baker said. "If you can round those numbers off, then why not? My team won 100 victories in my first year managing (the 1993 Giants) and we haven't won 100 since. I remember Tony La Russa, he asked me did I know what I just did. I said 'not really.' He said 'You won 100 victories.' I was like, 'Well, that's good.' But 20 years later, I still haven't won it again. So I guess I didn't know."

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