The American League East-leading Yankees are thriving in interleague play, completing three-game sweeps of the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves over the past week. Washington, which has a 4.5-game lead in the National League East, was just as dominant vs. AL competition during that stretch, sweeping the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.
The best-of-three lost some star power once it was clear that Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg (8-1, 2.45 ERA) wouldn't get to pitch to Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano or Alex Rodriguez this weekend (since he started in Toronto on Wednesday), but 19-year-old wunderkind Bryce Harper certainly makes up for his absence.
Harper, who provided the Internet with its newest meme earlier this week after dismissing a reporter's postgame inquiry as a "clown question," enters Friday batting .303 with seven home runs, nine doubles, four triples and 19 runs batted in. Tasked with keeping Harper and friends in check is Yankees starter Phil Hughes (6-5, 4.76 ERA), who turned his season around by going 5-1 with a 3.50 ERA since May 6.
Hughes has encountered just two current Nationals in between the lines: Rick Ankiel and Ryan Zimmerman. Ankiel is 2-for-2 with a solo homer against Hughes, and Zimmerman is 0-for-1 with a strikeout. Washington's answer to Hughes on Friday, left-hander Gio Gonzalez (8-2, 2.35 ERA)--6-1 with a 2.72 ERA since May 5--has pitched to 11 players on the Yankees.
LHP Gio Gonzalez vs. Yankees hitters:
Mark Teixeira, 1B - 5-for-14 (.357) with two doubles, one homer and three RBIs
Russell Martin, C - 2-for-4 with one walk
Robinson Cano, 2B - 0-for-9 with two walks
Alex Rodriguez, 3B - 2-for-8 with a double, one RBI and three walks
Raul Ibanez, OF/DH - 0-for-4 with a walk
Nick Swisher, RF - 4-for-12 with a double, one homer, five RBIs and two walks
Derek Jeter, SS - 2-for-12 (.167) with one double, one RBI and three walks
Jayson Nix, UT - 3-for-7 with a homer, three RBIs and one walk
Dewayne Wise, OF - 0-for-3
Curtis Granderson, CF - 2-for-13 (.154) with one homer, two RBIs and one walk
Andruw Jones, OF/DH - 3-for-11 (.273) with one double, two RBIs and three walks
Friday's Yankees-Nationals series opener at Nationals Park is slated to start at 7:05 p.m. ET.