The Washington Nationals have lost eight straight road games and their offense ranks last in the NL in virtually every category. Now they have to face a pitcher they have never scored against.
The Nationals (16-28) finished .500 in 2005 in their first season in Washington before dropping to 71 wins last year. It will be difficult to match that total this season if their play on the road doesn’t improve.
Washington has been outscored 37-18 during an eight-game road skid and is 5-15 away from RFK Stadium.
The eight-game slide is the franchise’s longest since the Montreal Expos dropped eight in a row from July 19-Aug. 8, 2003. The Expos lost nine consecutive road games May 2-17, 2002.
The Nationals’ offense has been punchless. They are last in the NL in batting average (.228), runs (142), on-base percentage (.305) and tied for last in homers (20).
It may be difficult to improve those numbers against Arroyo (2-4, 2.64 ERA), who has been one of the league’s most effective pitchers despite his record this year.
He is 1-0 in two career starts against the Nationals, allowing seven hits in 16 scoreless innings with three walks and 16 strikeouts.
Arroyo has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his last eight starts, but has received only three runs of support in his four losses. He recorded his fifth career complete game Wednesday, throwing 129 pitches in a 3-2 loss at San Diego.
The Nationals, though, do enter this series with some momentum after they completed their 10-game homestand Sunday with seven wins following a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Baltimore.
Nook Logan delivered a two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning as Washington improved to 3-23 when trailing after seven innings.
“This is it, baby! We went 7-3 with this,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “Regardless of what we’re going through right now with our pitching staff, even if we had five Cy Young-caliber pitchers, 7-3 is a terrific homestand, no matter who you are, whether you’re the Nationals or somebody else.”
The Reds (17-27) couldn’t overcome a poor outing from starter Aaron Harang on Sunday in a 5-3 loss at Cleveland.
Brandon Phillips extended his career-high hitting streak to 22 games with a second-inning homer for Cincinnati, which has lost 14 of 18 since reaching .500 on May 1.
The Reds will be without outfielder Josh Hamilton for a second straight game. Hamilton was sent back to Cincinnati on Sunday to be checked out by team doctors a day after he was diagnosed with gastroenteritis, an intestinal inflammation.
Levale Speigner (1-0, 4.91) makes his second career start for the Nationals. The rookie right-hander filled Shawn Hill’s spot in the rotation Wednesday against Atlanta and lasted four innings, giving up four runs and eight hits.
Speigner, who had been used primarily as a long reliever, was 1-0 with a 3.77 ERA in 12 relief appearances before he was called on to start. This will be his first appearance against the Reds.
The Reds won five of six games against the Nationals last season and have won 10 of the 12 meetings.