Considering they’re one of the worst hitting teams in the major leagues, the Washington Nationals haven’t been able to rely on their struggling lineup to win games this season.
With the pitching they’ve been getting lately, they haven’t needed many runs.
Coming off a pair of dominant starts, the Nationals will look for their third straight win on Tuesday when they continue a three-game series with the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, who are trying to avoid a fourth consecutive loss.
Washington (20-26) is batting just .236 as a team - one of the three worst averages in baseball - and is one of only five teams that scores fewer than four runs per game.
The Nationals have been averaging fewer than four runs a game in their last six, but they’ve won four times thanks to their outstanding pitching. They’ve given up just 15 runs in that span, and have allowed only four in their four wins.
John Lannan gave up just one run in 7 1-3 innings on Sunday as Washington beat Baltimore 2-1 in the finale of its first interleague series, before Tim Redding turned in an impressive performance on Monday.
Redding scattered seven hits over 6 1-3 innings against high-scoring Philadelphia, and the Nationals’ bullpen did the rest in their 4-0 win, the second shutout of their past four victories.
The Phillies (24-22), who have lost three straight for the first time in 2008, have been shut out twice this season. Redding has started both games, not allowing a run in 13 1-3 innings.
“There aren’t a lot of teams that throw shutouts against that offense,” Redding said.
A week ago, knowing Jason Bergmann (1-10, 7.45 ERA) was going to be on the mound would have made it seem like a stretch to expect a third consecutive impressive outing from a Washington starter.
But Bergmann, who was sent to the minors in mid-April after posting an 11.68 ERA in his first three starts, returned to the rotation with one of the best performances of his young career. The right-hander allowed only three hits over seven innings on Thursday against the Mets in the Nationals’ 1-0 win.
“Today was a good day, and we are going to go forward from here,” Bergmann told the team’s official Web site. “I was able to throw sliders early and throw curveballs over late. I had a lot of energy today. … I was excited to be back.”
Bergmann gave up five runs over 5 1-3 innings to the Phillies but didn’t earn a decision in an 8-7 loss on April 3.
Philadelphia will have its ace on the mound on Tuesday in an attempt to prevent its first four-game losing streak since Aug. 22-25. Cole Hamels (5-3, 2.89) is coming off one of the best starts of his brief major league career.
The left-hander tossed his first shutout on Thursday against Atlanta, allowing only four hits while striking out six in the Phillies’ 5-0 win.
“If he’s trying to improve on this,” reliever J.C. Romero told the team’s official Web site, “what does he want, a perfect game? This was as dominant as he could be.”
Hamels has been nearly as dominant recently against the Nationals, going 2-1 with a 0.65 ERA in his last four starts against them. The loss, however, came on April 2—during Redding’s first shutout of the Phillies—when Hamels allowed one run over eight innings on his way to a 1-0 defeat.
Second baseman Chase Utley has cooled off considerably since his hot start. Utley was batting .345 with 13 homers and 28 RBIs on May 9, but is hitting just .184 with a homer and three RBIs since.