DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies clinched a spot in the postseason with a win Friday but are aiming to win the National League West for the first time rather than have to play a one-and-done wild-card game.
The Rockies won their season-high eighth consecutive game Friday night, beating the Nationals 5-2. That victory coupled with St. Louis' 8-4 loss earlier in the day at the Chicago Cubs assured the Rockies of making the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in their 26-year history.
With two games to play, the Rockies (90-70) lead the Los Angeles Dodgers by just one game and have their sights set on winning the division.
Meanwhile, the Nationals (81-79) are highly motivated to block the Rockies' road to the division crown. After Strasburg, the Nationals will send ace Max Scherzer to the mound Sunday in the final game of the regular season if the game has postseason implications for the Rockies.
"I think we just got a lot of competitors," Nationals shortstop Trea Turner said after Friday's loss that ended Washington's three-game winning streak. "The fact Max wants to pitch on that last day; there's a possibility he's going to pitch. That shows you want kind of competitor he is. The same with everybody in the lineup.
"I think nobody wants to give anything away. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. But we're definitely going to go out there and compete against these guys."
Strasburg, who was reinstated Aug. 21 after missing 29 games with a cervical nerve impingement, had a no-decision Monday against Miami. In a 7-3 win over the Marlins, Strasburg gave up three hits, four walks and one run in four innings with five strikeouts while throwing 100 pitches.
Still, the short start kept Strasburg's streak intact of allowing two or fewer earned runs in six straight starts, five of which the Nationals won. During that stretch, Strasburg is 3-0 with a 2.60 ERA.
He's 4-4 with a 4.19 ERA in nine starts against the Rockies, including a no-decision April 15 at Washington when he allowed four hits and four runs in six innings in the Rockies' 6-5 win.
Gray is 0-2, 6.48 in three starts against Washington, including a loss April 14 at Washington when he gave up eight hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings as the Rockies fell 6-2.
Gray is coming off an outstanding start Monday against Philadelphia where he gave up four hits and one run in seven innings with three walks and seven strikeouts in the Rockies' 10-1 romp over the Phillies.
In three previous starts, Gray had gone 0-1, 10.80, allowing 15 hits, including five homers, and nine walks in 10 innings with 11 strikeouts.
Gray had seven days of rest before he took the mound against the Phillies and took advantage of the extra time to regroup. The Rockies pitching coaches worked with Gray to quicken his tempo on the mound, which, in turn, helped him simplify things and not think about his mechanics.
Rockies manager Bud Black said Gray's start against the Phillies "was big for Jon obviously in a number of areas. I thought he threw the ball well. The slider returned, and I think there was an uptick in the velocity. He was throwing the ball harder."
Black said Gray's work on his tempo led to a quicker delivery out of the windup and out of the stretch as well.
"We saw better pitches, so I think that played a big part," Black said. "And I think once Jon got rolling, gained more confidence, it set a nice tone, hopefully, as it relates to this start."