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Nationals could move closer to clinching division vs. Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Edwin Jackson will make the start Saturday night for the Washington Nationals against the Philadelphia Phillies with a chance to reduce the team's magic number to two. The start comes on his 34th birthday, as Jackson was born to a military family in Germany in 1983 and then went to high school in Georgia.

But the veteran is pitching for something perhaps more important to him personally: a shot at the postseason roster for manager Dusty Baker. The first-place Nationals have their magic number down to three after an 11-10 win at home Friday while the second-place Miami Marlins won 7-1 in Atlanta.

"I am excited, said Jackson, standing by his locker. "This is a great team, a lot of talent on the team and a lot of experienced players. The run that they had before I came here speaks for itself, speaks volumes."

"To be able to come and join what I think is one of the best staffs ... to be able to produce and feel I have contributed to some of the success in the second half has been a lot of fun. To do it under Dusty makes it even more fun."

Jackson, part of the Washington rotation in 2012, made three relief appearances with the Baltimore Orioles earlier this year before he was let go. He signed with the Nationals on June 16 as a minor league free agent and because of injuries eventually joined the big league staff after five outings with Triple-A Syracuse.

Jackson (5-4, 3.62 ERA) will be opposed Saturday by rookie right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. (2-5, 4.74), who has never started against Washington. Leiter faced the Nationals once earlier this year, going two innings out of the bullpen.

The Phillies have not used a left-handed starter in 145 games this season. That is the longest such streak in nearly 100 years for the franchise.

Jackson, who has pitched with 12 major league teams, is 2-6 with a 6.00 ERA in his career against the Phillies in nine games, with seven starts.

The last time Jackson started against the Phillies was in 2014 when he gave up eight and seven runs (six earned) in a loss while going 4 2/3 innings pitching for the Chicago Cubs.

Jackson last beat the Phillies as a starter in 2012, when he was a member of the Nationals' rotation. That year, he was 1/3 with a 3.55 ERA in four starts.

The first time Jackson faced the Phillies was in 2010 when he was touched with a loss in his only start against them that year. Now he is playing for Baker for the first time.

"September is the time when you want to get locked in heading into the playoffs," Jackson said. "I have been on playoff contending teams, World Series teams. It is not necessarily the best team who wins. It is the team that is playing the best baseball at the best time, and that is at the end of September."

Current Phillies hitters only have a combined nine at-bats against Jackson, with two hits. The only Philadelphia hitter with more than three at-bats against Jackson is infielder Freddy Galvis, who is 1-for-4.

Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph has been impressed with Rhys Hoskins, who hit his 13th homer Friday.

"Take all of the numbers out of it, the way he has handled himself, it is not easy," Joseph said of a player who began the year in the minors. "Now you are the main headline. It has been pretty impressive to watch."

Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera let a liner get over his head in the third as Michael A. Taylor hit an inside-the-park grand slam Friday.

"He just misplayed it," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.

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