Nationals-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

One year after Davey Johnson took over as manager in Washington, the Nationals have the best record in the NL.

Riding back-to-back big offensive performances, the Nationals look for a third consecutive victory over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday at Coors Field.

After falling 4-2 at Colorado on Monday, Washington (43-30) pounded out a season-high 21 hits in a 12-5 win the next night and recorded 14 during an 11-5 win Wednesday.

The Nationals' latest victory came one year to the day from when Johnson managed his first game for the club after Jim Riggleman abruptly resigned days earlier. Since Johnson took over, Washington is 83-73, and as the All-Star break nears, the Nationals have the third-best mark in the majors.

"It's an exciting time for us and an exciting time for D.C.," said rookie outfielder Bryce Harper, who had two hits Wednesday.

Rookie Tyler Moore and Ryan Zimmerman each homered for a second straight game for the Nationals, who have not scored at least 10 runs in three straight contests since June 10-13, 1995, when the franchise was based in Montreal.

"Our whole lineup, one through nine, is swinging the bats well," Harper said.

Moore is hitting .455 (15 for 33) since being recalled from Triple-A on June 7.

"I'm completely 'see ball, hit ball,''' said Moore, who has five RBIs over the past two nights. "Dumb it down for me I'll be at my best.''

Zimmerman is 8 for 17 with six RBIs in the last four games after going 5 for 48 in his previous 12. He's batting .380 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs in 25 games at Coors Field.

Scheduled Washington starter Edwin Jackson (4-4, 2.91 ERA) has not been nearly as effective at Coors, where he's allowed 21 runs, 24 hits and walked eight over 12 innings spanning three starts. He yielded 10 of those runs in 2 1-3 innings in his last start in Denver, a 12-1 loss for Arizona on April 27, 2010.

Jackson, however, is 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA this month. The right-hander retired the first 12 batters he faced and gave up a homer in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-1 victory at Baltimore on Saturday.

"It was just one of those days you don't have blow-away stuff," Jackson said. "You just have to go out and pitch."

Jackson could get plenty of support if Washington hitters stay hot against a Colorado starting staff that is 0-14 with a 9.42 ERA in 20 games since Christian Friedrich won at Arizona on June 4.

Josh Outman (0-3, 8.64) hopes to earn that elusive victory Thursday when he makes his sixth straight start since leaving the bullpen. The left-hander was staked to an 8-0 lead Saturday but allowed five runs and exceeded the 75-pitch limit manager Jim Tracy has set for his starters by throwing 92 in 4 2-3 innings of an 11-7 win at Texas.

"The only person I can be aggravated at is myself," Outman told the Rockies' official website.

This will be his first appearance against the Nationals.

Carlos Gonzalez is batting .449 during a 16-game home hitting streak for Colorado (28-46). He's 3 for 5 with two doubles and a triple against Jackson.

Teammate Dexter Fowler is 10 for 19 with two homers and six runs scored in his last five contests.