Chicago (51-84) at Washington (83-52)

  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Wed Sep 5, 2012
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The NL East-leading Washington Nationals teed off on the Chicago Cubs’ pitchers in their last game.

Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond may have just been warming up.

Zimmerman and Desmond look to continue bashing scheduled starter Chris Volstad’s pitching Wednesday night, while Washington’s Gio Gonzalez tries to become the franchise’s first 18-game winner in more than 25 years.

Zimmerman, Desmond, Tyler Moore and Jesus Flores all went deep, and Adam LaRoche homered twice in Tuesday’s 11-5 victory. The Nationals (83-52), who hit their most home runs at home since moving to the nation’s capital in 2005, won for the sixth time in seven games to open a season-high 7 1/2-game advantage atop the division.

Washington’s offense has been overshadowed by a pitching staff that has an NL-best 3.28 ERA, but it’s come on strong of late, plating at least eight runs in five of seven games.

“We’re in a pretty good place offensively,” Davey Johnson said. “I like the lineup we have.”

LaRoche, who leads the Nationals with 27 home runs, has hit four in the last four games and is 10 for 20 with five homers and seven RBIs in helping Washington win four of five against the Cubs (51-84) this season.

Zimmerman, meanwhile, is batting .300 with two homers during a season-high nine-game hitting streak, and Desmond is batting .429 with seven RBIs in his last seven. Both are likely eagerly awaiting taking some hacks against Volstad (2-9, 6.06 ERA).

The two each have 25 career at-bats against Volstad. Desmond is batting .560 with a homer and three doubles, while Zimmerman is hitting .520 with two home runs and two doubles.

Jayson Werth is 13 for 26 with 10 runs during a six-game hitting streak, but probably not as excited about facing Volstad. He is hitting .091 with 12 strikeouts in 33 career at-bats, his lowest average against any pitcher he has faced at least 18 times.

Volstad allowed two runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings in Friday’s 6-4 win over San Francisco for his second consecutive victory after a 24-start winless streak. The right-hander has not won three consecutive starts since his final three outings of 2010.

While Volstad, who was 0-2 with a 3.30 ERA in five starts against Washington last year with Florida, is just starting to pick up victories, Gonzalez (17-7, 3.10) is tied with three others for the major league lead.

Gonzalez threw a five-hitter while striking out eight in Friday’s 10-0 win over St. Louis for his first career shutout. He established a new career high for wins, surpassing last season’s total with Oakland, and became the first Nationals pitcher to reach 17 victories. The franchise’s last player to win 18 was Bryn Smith for the 1985 Montreal Expos.

The righty, who is 4-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his last five starts, made his season debut against Chicago, and wasn’t particularly sharp, allowing four runs, seven hits and three walks in 3 2-3 innings in a game the Nationals won 7-4.

Alfonso Soriano, who is 2 for 3 with a double lifetime against Gonzalez, has been one of the few bright spots lately for the Cubs, losers of four straight overall and 15 of 16 away from Chicago.

Soriano homered and tripled Tuesday and is batting .333 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in his last six games.

“We have to try to come back one day at a time,” he said. “We have to come back with more energy and try to get the win (Wednesday).”

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Starting Pitchers

C. Volstad CWS vs. G. González WAS
3-12 Record 21-8
6.31 ERA 2.89
61 K 207
43 BB 76
1.62 WHIP 1.13


Wednesday, Sep 5