Washington (21-30) at Philadelphia (25-24)

  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Mon May 29, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Both Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard and Washington’s Alfonso Soriano look for franchise records Monday when the Phillies and the Nationals begin a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park.

Howard and Soriano have been among the league leaders in home runs during May, and on Sunday, both tied their respective clubs’ team records for homers during the month.

Howard hit his major league-leading 12th homer in May—17th overall—in Philadelphia’s 6-2 win over Milwaukee, tying Mike Schmidt’s franchise record set in 1980.

The 2005 NL rookie of the year, Howard has homers in consecutive games, and has hit one out in three of his last four contests, even though he said he hasn’t found his swing yet.

“I’m just trying to get right at the plate. I’m not there yet. When I am, I’ll let you know,” Howard said, laughing.

Soriano hit his 11th homer this month—18th this season—in Washington’s 10-4 win over the Dodgers, tying Henry Rodriguez’ team record set in 1996, when the franchise was based in Montreal.

Soriano’s performance has coincided with the Nationals’ recent stretch of good play.

Over his last 11 games, Soriano, who moved to left field for this season, has batted .400 (16-for-40) with six homers and 10 RBIs, and has scored 15 runs while striking out only three times. His numbers have given a boost to his All-Star candidacy.

“I have the numbers,” said Soriano, who is batting .301 overall. “But second base is not like outfield. At second base, not too many people have big numbers.”

The Nationals (21-30) finished 7-3 on their homestand, won all three series against Baltimore, Houston and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and have won five of their last six overall.

“This was a nice homestand,” Washington manager Frank Robinson said. “But we still have to carry it over. We have to dig, dig to get ourselves out of the hole we’re in. We’re up to what? Nine games under? So have to continue to do it over and over. We’re starting to win series now. If we continue to do that for the next month, we’ll be in good shape.”

Washington begins a nine-game road trip looking to continue its strong play. The Nationals’ have not been very good away from RFK Stadium—their last series victory on the road came against Philadelphia (25-24) on April 18-20, when they took two of three from the Phillies.

Overall, the Nationals have lost six of their last eight on the road.

Soriano is 2-for-4 against Philadelphia’s Jon Lieber (3-5, 5.83 ERA), who starts on Monday, while Howard and the Phillies have never faced Nationals rookie Mike O’Connor (2-2, 2.65).

O’Connor hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his six starts, and gave up only one run and three hits in six innings against Houston on Wednesday, but didn’t earn a decision.

O’Connor hasn’t won since May 7, when he beat the Pirates 5-4.

Since starting the season 0-4, Lieber has recovered and won three of his last four decisions, lowering his ERA from 7.99 to 5.83.

Lieber is 9-7 with a 4.00 ERA in 22 appearances—19 starts—against the Nationals.

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Starting Pitchers

M. O'Connor MIN vs. J. Lieber CHC
3-8 Record 9-11
4.80 ERA 4.93
59 K 100
45 BB 24
1.34 WHIP 1.31