They’re just getting it at the right times - a key reason why the Padres are in first place - and the Nationals aren’t - a big part of why they’re in last.
Coming off three consecutive final at-bat wins, San Diego begins a six-game trip seeking its sixth win in seven road games Tuesday night in Washington.
The Padres (49-33), owners of the NL’s best record, have failed to score more than three runs in nine of their last 13 games but have only lost four. Washington (36-47) has not scored more than three in 12 of 18 but has gone 5-13.
San Diego, which won five of six at Tampa Bay and Florida in its last road trip, follows this set with three at Colorado before the All-Star break.
The Padres are coming off a 3-2 home win over Houston on Sunday, when Tony Gwynn(notes) Jr.’s bases-loaded single in the ninth inning provided the difference. The only runs they scored in the previous two games came in the eighth, winning 3-0 Friday and 1-0 Saturday.
Heath Bell(notes) closed both of those games and was the winning pitcher Sunday, helping give the Padres 11 victories in their final at-bat. Leading the majors with 23 saves, Bell has not given up a run in eight straight appearances but was left off the NL’s All-Star roster.
He still could make the team in Internet voting as one of five candidates for the final roster spot.
Bell could face another online candidate in this series - Ryan Zimmerman(notes). The reigning Gold Glove Award winner at third base, Zimmerman is batting .320 with runners on base and has scored a team-high 49 runs while driving in 44.
He had a three-run homer among his three hits Sunday in a 9-5 home loss to the New York Mets.
“He is a special player. I think he is a perennial All-Star,” third-base coach Pat Listach told the Nationals’ official website.
Zimmerman is 1 for 5 off Clayton Richard(notes) (6-4, 2.74 ERA), who starts Tuesday, and current Nationals players have hit a combined .137 against him. The left-hander held Washington to four hits in seven innings May 29 but allowed four runs in a 5-3 loss.
Richard won his second straight start Wednesday, posting a career-high 10 strikeouts as he held Colorado to two runs in seven innings of a 13-3 win.
While Richard is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA in his last four outings on the road, counterpart Livan Hernandez(notes) (6-4, 2.98) is 4-1 with a 1.75 ERA in nine home starts. Hernandez has tossed seven innings of one-run ball in his last two outings at Nationals Park.
He faced the Padres on May 30, giving up two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-2, 11-inning loss. Hernandez is 0-2 in his last three starts against San Diego, and has a 6.63 ERA in the past 10.