The Arizona Diamondbacks are fighting for a spot in the postseason while the Washington Nationals have been out of contention for some time. The first two games of their weekend series have made it seem like those roles have been reversed.
The Nationals (58-77) go for a sweep of the Diamondbacks (64-71) when the teams close out a three-game set at RFK Stadium on Sunday.
Washington rallied in both games of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader, beating Arizona 7-6 in 11 innings in the opener and 4-3 in the nightcap. The Nationals scored five runs spanning the eighth and ninth innings in the first game, as Ryan Church hit a three-run homer and Alfonso Soriano had a two-run shot to force extra innings.
The Nationals used a three-run eighth inning to take the second game, sparked by Zimmerman’s solo homer and Austin Kearns’ two-run shot.
Washington also rallied in the ninth inning Thursday for a 6-5, 10-inning win over Philadelphia.
“We’re not going to pack it in until the season’s over,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.
The Nationals franchise has won nine straight at home against the Diamondbacks dating to April 24, 2003, when the team was located in Montreal, outscoring them 51-26 in those contests.
Saturday’s losses, combined with San Diego’s victory over Cincinnati, left Arizona five games behind the Padres for the wild card. The Diamondbacks have dropped four in a row and 12 of 15.
Brandon Webb (14-5, 3.02 ERA) hopes to end Washington’s dominance over his club and set a career high for wins when he takes the ball for Arizona. The right-hander turned in his best performance in more than a month in his last outing, limiting San Diego to three runs and six hits over 7 1-3 innings in a 7-4 victory Monday. His sinking fastball induced 17 outs on grounders and led to three double plays.
Webb pitched one day after the death of close friend Jon Hooker in a Kentucky plane crash. He had struggled since missing a start at the beginning of August due to stiffness in his elbow.
“(Monday), I woke up, my arm felt better than it’s felt in a month or so. So I was pretty pleased about that,” said Webb, who went 14-12 last season. “I went there and all the way through the game felt pretty strong. I was real pleased. That was the best I’ve felt in a long time.”
Webb, 0-1 with a 6.59 ERA in three games against the Nationals, will be facing them for the first time this season.
Diamondbacks second baseman Orlando Hudson had his eight-game hitting streak snapped in the second game Saturday, but is 5-for-7 with a homer, a triple and a double in his career against Tony Armas (8-10, 5.28), who takes the ball for Washington on Sunday.
The right-hander looks to improve after giving up 13 runs—10 earned—in just five innings over his last two starts. Opponents are batting .545 against him in that span.
Armas lasted 3 1-3 innings Tuesday, allowing five runs and eight hits in a 10-6 loss to Philadelphia. He went 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA in his first 13 starts this season, but is 2-7 with a 7.95 ERA in his last 11 outings, lasting at least six innings in just three of those outings.
“He’s just not giving the performance we are counting on him to give us,” Robinson said.
Armas is 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA in two starts against the Diamondbacks.