WASHINGTON -- The Nationals had a chance to clinch a playoff spot during the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday night, but they ended up losing to the Dodgers, 7-6, despite a thrilling rally in the eighth inning at Nationals Park.
The Nationals split the doubleheader as they won the first game, 3-1. It was also their 90th victory of the season, and they remain one win from clinching a playoff berth. Their magic number to clinch the National League East is nine.
In the second game, the score was tied at 6 when Los Angeles took the lead in the top of the ninth inning. With closer Tyler Clippard on the mound, Matt Kemp swung at an 0-2 pitch and hit the ball over the center-field wall to give the Dodgers a one-run lead.
"That's a pitch I've relied on a lot during my career," Clippard said. "It was an elevated fastball -- just below the letters. I don't know if he was looking up there or guessed right or [the fastball] didn't have the life that it normally did. I really don't know what the reason was. He seemed to put a good swing on it. Sometimes you have to tip your cap."
It was Clippard's fifth loss of the season. Brandon League shut down the Nats in the ninth for his third save as a member of the Dodgers.
Left-hander John Lannan had his worst Major League outing of the season for Washington. He allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings.
"John seemed to be all over the place," manager Davey Johnson said. "He was wild a couple of innings. It was not one of his better outings."
Los Angeles went to work on Lannan in the third inning. With the bases loaded, Hanley Ramirez singled to center field, driving in Mark Ellis and Kemp. Andre Ethier followed and singled to center, scoring Adrian Gonzalez to make it a 3-0 game.
In the next inning, Los Angeles scored three more runs against Lannan. Matt Treanor scored the fourth run of the game on a single by Kemp. Lannan didn't have any excuses for his bad outing.
"After that third inning, I had an opportunity to keep it right there. I couldn't find the strike zone," Lannan said " ... I threw my two-seam [fastball] and they took pitches in the dirt. They were patient. They were fouling balls off. I just didn't have good rhythm."
After Gonzalez reached base on an infield single, Lannan was taken out in favor Chien-Ming Wang, who made his first Major League appearance since June 30.
At first, Wang didn't fare any better. Wang threw a wild pitch and that allowed Shane Victorino to score and make it a 5-0 game. With two outs, Kemp ended up scoring the sixth run for the Dodgers on a fielder's choice out by Ramirez.
On the replay, Ryan Zimmerman tagged Gonzalez before Kemp touched home plate, but home-plate umpire Alan Porter ruled that Kemp had already scored before the out was made.
"At the time, you don't think it's a big play. You just can't give away runs in the big leagues," Zimmerman said.
That turned out to be a huge play in the game.
Porter was not available for comment, but Johnson felt that sixth run should not have scored.
"In my mind, [Kemp didn't score]," Johnson said. "[The umpires] obviously blew the call. It wasn't reviewable. They all discussed it. Evidently, nobody was paying attention, but Kemp wasn't running. You would think when the three of them got together, somebody would have been paying attention. Kemp was not at home. They are not changing it. They had their meeting.
"There was nothing I could do. I raised a fuss. The umpire chief came over. I said, 'It's terrible, You guys missed that. You better look on the replay and see how three of you missed it.' I can understand the third-base umpire looking at the tag."
Even Kemp hinted that that he shouldn't have scored.
"Yeah, it looked pretty close," he said. "I actually should've been running forward and not looking back. That was close. I don't know if I quite made it. We got lucky right there, we stole a run."
Dodgers right-hander Josh Beckett was solid the first seven innings, allowing no runs on two hits. But Washington was able to get to Beckett and bat around in the eighth inning with Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth out of the game.
Michael Morse led off with a home run. After Ian Desmond singled, Steve Lombardozzi hit a two-run homer to make it a 6-3 game. Corey Brown then reached second on an error by Gonzalez at first base.
Beckett exited the game in favor of Randy Choate, who allowed a single to Mark DeRosa to put runners on first and third. Bryce Harper followed and reached on an infield single, allowing Brown to score.
Ronald Belisario then entered for Los Angeles and allowed a single to Danny Espinosa to load the bases. After Tyler Moore struck out, Morse came up for the second time in the inning and singled to right field, scoring DeRosa and Harper to tie the score at 6.
"There is no give up on our ballclub. They came battling back. We tied the game," Johnson said. "I loved the way we kept battling."
Said Zimmerman, "That's the way we played all year. No matter who is in there, I think this team is a very good team that plays hard to the end. We should be proud of that."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.