WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday, a day after winning the National League East title, the Nationals were trying to get the best record in baseball. Manager Davey Johnson rested most of his starters, and it paid off, as the Nationals beat the Phillies, 4-2, at Nationals Park.
The score was tied at 1 in the sixth, then the Nationals (97-64) took the lead against reliever Josh Lindblom. Adam LaRoche, one of two regulars to start the game, led off and sent the ball over the right-field wall for his 33rd home run and 100th RBI of the season. He is now the third player -- Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn are the others -- in Nationals history to collect 100 RBIs in a season. The fans cheered for a curtain call, and they got one.
"It feels pretty good. ... It's kind of a milestone to reach 100. If I had finished on 99, it would have been a tough pill to swallow," said LaRoche, who credits Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Zimmerman for getting on base so often and giving him the opportunity to drive them in. "It's nice to have a little celebration two nights in a row."
LaRoche considers this to be the best season of his career. Yes, he drove in a 100 runs back in 2010, while with the D-backs, but now he's going to the postseason. Even so, he thinks about all the runners he left on base.
"It's my best season for a lot of reasons. Individually, I'm pretty happy with where I'm at," he said. "Right now I'll look back at some of the missed opportunities, some of the things I could work on and do better. But the fact that I've been able to put together some pretty good numbers on top of us [being] tied for the best record in baseball and clinching the division last night. ... A combination of that, no question, [makes this] the best year."
It's also a nice comeback season for LaRoche, who missed most of last year because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
"You sign here, and the first year you blow out and don't get to contribute or show anything -- it makes for a long summer and, obviously, a long winter," he said. "To come back and prove to myself, my teammates, the organization, that I was healthy, it was a great feeling."
Later in that sixth inning, the Nationals had the bases loaded with two outs when Steve Lombardozzi singled up the middle to send Mark DeRosa home for the third run of the game.
The Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning against left-hander Antonio Bastardo. Lombardozzi hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Roger Bernadina to make it a 4-2 game.
Washington used a bullpen-by-committee, which allowed two runs on nine hits. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez had been scheduled to start, but Johnson decided to give Tom Gorzelanny the ball and let Gonzalez rest before starting Game 1 of the NL Division Series.
The Phillies scored their first run against Gorzelanny in the fourth inning, when leadoff hitter Darin Ruf sent a 2-2 pitch over the left-field wall for his second home run of the season.
Gorzelanny left the game with two outs in the fourth inning, though it was clear that he didn't want to exit, especially since Phillies pitcher B.J. Rosenberg was stepping to the plate.
"Yeah, no offense to him, but he is a pitcher. To get taken out for a pitcher is never a good feeling," Gorzelanny said. "I was sure I could at least get a couple more pitches out of [Johnson], but he kept blaming it on [pitching coach Steve McCatty]. So I tried to get away from him. I went and yelled at [McCatty]. But I know what they're trying to do, that's fine. You don't want to throw too many pitches out there, just because I haven't done that much. They were looking out for my best interests."
Ruf hit another homer, a solo shot over the wall in left-center in the eighth inning off Tyler Clippard. All three home runs that Ruf has hit this year have been off the Nationals.
With the victory, the Nationals are tied with the Reds for the best record in baseball. If the two teams remain tied after Wednesday, the Nationals own the season tiebreaker and will play the winner of the Wild Card game on the road on Sunday.
"I don't know if [the top seed is] that important. You've got to beat the teams you play," Johnson said. "The only nice thing is we don't have to fly cross-country. That's the only nice thing. The pitching's set up for whoever we play. [But with] the kind of year we've had, it would be fitting to finish it off with the best record."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.