The Washington Nationals have gotten a number of contributions during what's looking more and more like their first playoff-bound season in eight years in the nation's capital.
Michael Morse has given his surging club some significant help lately and will try to help add to its recent dominance over the New York Mets on Saturday night.
Washington (74-45) is only eight wins shy of securing its first winning season since relocating from Montreal after the 2004 campaign. The Nationals, though, have their sights set on bigger goals, namely the franchise's first postseason berth since 1981.
Washington is speeding toward that goal with 21 victories in 27 games and Morse has helped his team earn some of those wins with a 13-game hit streak, the longest current run in the NL and longest by a Nationals player this season. He hit a go-ahead grand slam in Friday's 6-4 win over the Mets (56-63), and Bryce Harper added a two-run shot for his first homer in 11 games.
"It has been a lot of fun watching Mikey the last couple of years, kind of come into his own and turn into the player that he has become. He is awesome," outfielder Jayson Werth told the team's official website. "He is a great teammate and a great guy to have."
Morse, batting .315 with four homers and 12 RBIs during his streak, has recorded at least one hit in each of his 10 games against New York this season. He has three doubles in 12 career at-bats against the Mets' Jonathon Niese (9-6, 3.67 ERA).
Niese enters this start having given up one run in two of his last three outings, including a 6-5 win over Atlanta on Sunday. The left-hander matched a season high by going eight innings while rebounding from a 4-2 loss to Miami on Aug. 7.
"I don't consider it me struggling very much, but I might have had a rough game here and there," Niese said of his recent outings.
Niese is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his last four starts against the Nationals, who have won 10 of 12 over New York, but he hasn't recorded a decision in the past two matchups. He gave up one run and three hits over seven innings while striking out eight at Nationals Park on July 17 as the Mets lost 5-4.
He'll pitch opposite Edwin Jackson (7-7, 3.74), who has performed well in his two starts against New York this season. The veteran right-hander is 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in those games and earned a 5-3 home victory June 6, allowing three runs and three hits over seven innings.
Jackson gave up five runs over 5 2-3 innings last Saturday in Arizona but got enough support for a 6-5 victory.
"Right now, we can afford to have a game like today, when you have a starter out there having to kind of grind through it without his best stuff and still come away with a win," first baseman Adam LaRoche said after that game.
Jackson hasn't pitched past the sixth inning in each of his last three starts.
- Washington Nationals