Nationals-Phillies Preview

The Associated Press

Jayson Werth has been on a roll for the past two months, and much of his success has come against his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies.

The slugger, however, might find things more difficult facing red-hot Cole Hamels.

Werth and the visiting Washington Nationals hope to keep picking up ground in the NL wild-card race Monday night when they open a three-game series against Hamels and the Phillies.

Werth belted the go-ahead RBI double in a three-run eighth inning as Washington rallied for a 6-5 victory to salvage the series finale against the Mets on Sunday. The Nationals (69-67), who have won eight of 11, trail Cincinnati by 6 1/2 games for the final wild-card berth.

"There is a lot of baseball left," manager Davey Johnson said. "We just have to keep chugging away one game at a time.''

Werth went 2 for 5 with two doubles, leaving him with an NL-leading .374 batting average since July 1. He also tops the league with 13 home runs and ranks second with 44 RBIs during that stretch.

"He's been swinging the bat good," Johnson said. "He's driven.''

The right fielder, who played for the Phillies (62-75) from 2007-10 and won a World Series title in 2008, is batting .459 with four homers and 11 RBIs against his old club this season. Only his .480 average versus Milwaukee is better among teams he's faced more than three times this year.

Although Werth homered off Hamels (6-13, 3.58 ERA) in a 4-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park on July 9, he's just 3 for 18 lifetime in their matchups.

The left-hander has given just about everyone trouble lately, going 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his last six starts. He struck out eight and gave up two runs over seven innings in Wednesday's 6-2 victory over the Mets.

"He's pitched well all year,'' said interim manager Ryne Sandberg, whose club seeks its seventh win in nine home games after dropping the final two of a three-game set at Wrigley Field.

Hamels is 14-6 with a 2.57 ERA in 26 career starts versus the Nationals, against whom he is 7-1 with a 3.13 ERA in his last eight home starts.

Scott Hairston is batting .412 with five homers in 34 lifetime at-bats in this matchup, while Adam LaRoche - mired in an 0 for 15 slump - is 10 for 31 with four homers and a double.

Stephen Strasburg (6-9, 2.96) has struggled with a 1-5 record and 4.98 ERA on the road, but he came an out away from a complete-game victory at Wrigley on Aug. 22 before giving up a game-tying two-run homer in a 5-4, 13-inning win. He struck out eight while allowing four runs over 8 2-3 innings.

The right-hander was limited to two scoreless innings Wednesday due to rain in a 4-3 win over Miami. He's 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA while limiting opponents to a .188 batting average over his last five starts.

Strasburg is 2-0 with 19 strikeouts in two starts versus the Phillies this year and pitched a four-hitter Aug. 11 for his first shutout.

Jimmy Rollins is 2 for 16 with six strikeouts versus Strasburg and hitting .172 in his last 16 games against the Nationals.

Washington's Denard Span is batting .407 over a 15-game hitting streak, while Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .380 over his last 12 games.

The Phillies have won five of seven at home between the teams, but the Nationals lead the season series 7-6.