Washington (24-32) at Arizona (30-25)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Phoenix, AZ
Temp: 100° F
  • Game info: 8:10 pm EDT Sat May 31, 2008
  • TV: MASN2, FSAZ
Preview | Box Score | Recap

After an impressive start to the season, Arizona’s Brandon Webb appears to have stalled. The Diamondbacks, however, desperately need a strong start from their ace.

Webb will try to help the NL West-leading Diamondbacks end their longest losing streak in nearly a year on Saturday as their three-game series with the Washington Nationals continues at Chase Field.

Webb (9-2, 3.01 ERA) had a 1.98 ERA through April, but has given up at least three runs in each of his five starts this month. Since winning his first nine outings this season, he has dropped back-to-back starts, including Monday’s 7-3 loss in Atlanta as he was pounded for seven runs - four earned - and 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings.

“I just wasn’t sharp,” Webb said. “I started off and everything they hit seemed to find holes. I wasn’t working ahead and didn’t have a real good fastball. My velocity was down. I got a lot of strikeouts but it didn’t seem like I could ever make the big pitch when it counted.”

The outing was Webb’s shortest since he lasted only four innings against San Diego on Oct. 1, 2006.

“Nobody can be perfect every time,” catcher Chris Snyder said. “Everybody was asking what he was doing different than when he was winning. He wasn’t doing anything different then and he’s not doing anything different now.”

Webb’s latest defeat was the first of five straight for the Diamondbacks (30-25), who are on their longest losing streak since dropping five in a row July 4-8 last season. Arizona, which hasn’t lost six straight since Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2006, has dropped nine of 11 and its NL West lead has dwindled to 2 1/2 games over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Despite Webb’s recent struggles, the Diamondbacks are no doubt glad to be sending him back to the mound. The NL Cy Young Award winner in 2006 and runner-up in 2007 faced Washington twice last season and won in impressive fashion both times, allowing one run and striking out 18 in 16 innings.

Webb is 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA in six career appearances - five starts - against the Nationals franchise.

Washington (24-32) won Friday for just the second time in five games, beating Arizona 7-4. Willie Harris hit a tiebreaking three-run homer, his second of the season, to end a 1-for-18 slump.

“I’m by far not a home run hitter,” Harris said. “I hit two every year, so that’s my mark. I’m done.”

Orlando Hudson and Chad Tracy hit solo homers for the Diamondbacks, who have failed to score more than four runs in every game during their losing streak. They have reached double digits in hits only once in their last 14 games.

“It just feels like we’re putting some pressure on ourselves at the plate, especially if we’re behind a little bit,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Arizona’s offense will have its work cut out against Washington starter Jason Bergmann (1-1, 4.50), who has not allowed a run in 19 2-3 innings in his three starts since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus on May 14. He threw 5 2-3 innings in the Nationals’ 11-inning, 4-3 loss to Milwaukee on Monday.

“I tried my best for as long as I could,” Bergmann said. “Hopefully, next time we’ll get the W.”

Bergmann has made three starts against the Diamondbacks, going 0-1 with a 6.59 ERA.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Bergmann KC vs. B. Webb Tex
2-11 Record 22-7
5.09 ERA 3.30
96 K 183
47 BB 65
1.43 WHIP 1.20

Scoreboard

Saturday, May 31