The Washington Nationals began the season as one of the worst road teams in the majors, but that certainly hasn’t been the case lately.
The Nationals look for another strong showing from their resurgent offense when they continue a three-game interleague series with the Minnesota Twins on Saturday at the Metrodome.
Washington (25-36) went 5-16 on the road to start 2007, but has won six of its last seven games away from the nation’s capital, including an 8-5 victory over the Twins (29-30) in Friday’s series opener.
The Nationals are averaging 7.1 runs and batting .326 during the surge away from home, while recording at least 10 hits in all seven contests.
“I just think we put some great swings on some pitches,” said Washington left fielder Ryan Church, went 2-for-5 with an RBI on Friday. “We were all aggressive, and we went out and got some pitches that we could hit.”
Washington’s Dmitri Young was 3-for-5 and drove in three runs, and is batting .515 with 19 RBIs over his last 20 games. Shortstop Cristian Guzman is also surging, hitting .513 (20-for-39) in his last nine contests.
He went 4-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored Friday in his return to the Metrodome, where he played for the Twins from 1999-2004. Guzman helped the Nationals record 15 hits and score eight or more runs for fourth time this season - all victories.
On Saturday, he’ll face former teammate Johan Santana (6-5, 3.30 ERA), who is looking to overcome a slow start to the season. The Twins’ ace is one defeat away from matching his total from all of last season, when he went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA to win his second AL Cy Young Award in three years.
He allowed four runs - three earned - and five hits over six innings in a 4-2 defeat to Oakland on Sunday. Santana walked four and struck out four, both season-worsts.
The left-hander has been dominant in interleague play during his career, though, going 14-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 31 games, including 20 starts, while holding opponents to a .185 batting average. He went 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA against the National League last season.
Santana won his only start against the Nationals franchise when the team was located in Montreal, allowing two runs and three hits over eight innings in an 8-2 victory on June 15, 2004.
The Twins have dropped five of their last six games, with the starting rotation posting a dismal 7.09 ERA during that stretch. Carlos Silva gave up seven runs in three innings Friday.
Jason Kubel hit a three-run homer in the defeat for the Twins, who dropped to 2-2 in interleague play this year after going 16-2 in 2006. Catcher Joe Mauer returned to the lineup after missing the last 29 games with a strained left quadriceps.
“I felt a lot better than I thought I would at the plate,” said Mauer, who tripled in the loss. “It’s good to be back out there with the guys.”
Minnesota looks to rebound against Washington’s Levale Speigner (1-2, 9.10), who is trying to avoid losing his third straight start. The rookie right-hander, who began the season in the bullpen, has gone 0-2 with a 14.44 ERA and a .423 opponent batting average in four starts since joining the rotation in mid-May.
He gave up six runs and seven hits over four innings in an 11-3 defeat to San Diego last Saturday. Speigner was originally drafted by Minnesota and came to the Nationals as a Rule 5 draft pick.