Nationals-Padres Preview

The Associated Press

If Adam LaRoche can keep up his production at Petco Park, Jordan Zimmermann might have an easier time taking over the major league lead in wins.

LaRoche looks to stay hot in support of Zimmerman, who goes for his eighth victory Saturday night when the Washington Nationals try for three in a row against the San Diego Padres.

After LaRoche hit two more home runs in San Diego on Friday, Chad Tracy's pinch-hit solo shot in the 10th inning proved to be the decisive blow in a 6-5 victory over the Padres (18-23).

After dropping two of three in Los Angeles, Washington (23-19) has won two in a row at Petco Park to move above .500 on its 10-game road trip.

LaRoche has keyed the team's success against the Padres, going 3 for 7 with three homers and six RBIs in the first two games of this four-game series.

He's hitting .407 (11 for 27) with eight extra-base hits and eight RBIs in his last seven visits to Petco. His 10 career homers in San Diego are his most in a city where he hasn't played for that team, and he's driven in 28 runs in 34 games there.

The left-handed slugger has homered in three straight games and is batting .396 with 11 RBIs during a 14-game hitting streak overall.

"He's been on fire for a couple weeks now," manager Davey Johnson said. "It's been impressive to watch him hit like he's able to."

LaRoche, however, might have a difficult time keeping it going against scheduled starter Eric Stults (3-3, 4.57 ERA) since he's 0 for 2 against the left-hander and 5 for 30 off southpaws this season.

Washington also has struggled as a team when facing left-handers, batting a major league-low .194 including 9 for 58 (.155) with no extra-base hits since May 9.

The Nationals hope to reverse that trend and provide some run support for Zimmermann (7-1, 1.69), who is tied with Texas' Yu Darvish and Tampa Bay's Matt Moore for the major league lead in wins.

Zimmermann has been especially tough lately, walking three and striking out 24 while posting an 0.85 ERA during his four-start winning streak.

The right-hander allowed two runs in 7 2-3 innings in a 6-2 road win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.

"I've always been confident. I feel like I haven't changed anything from last year," said Zimmermann, who won a career-high 12 games in 2012. "I feel if I keep that up I'm going to have a lot more quality starts."

Zimmermann has surrendered one run and eight hits while striking out 16 over 13 innings in two career starts at Petco - both Washington victories.

Padres leading hitter Chase Headley is batting .436 with eight extra-base hits over an 11-game hitting streak at home, though he's 2 for 9 lifetime when facing Zimmermann.

The Padres hope to avoid their sixth loss in eight games as Stults tries to pick up a San Diego rotation that has a 6.83 ERA over its last six starts.

After allowing three runs over 13 innings in his previous two outings, Stults wasn't as sharp Sunday when he had a season-high five walks and gave up three runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay.

"That's not my game. For me, I have to attack the strike zone," said Stults, who has never faced the Nationals.

Ryan Zimmerman, who homered Friday, is 5 for 11 with three homers and five RBIs in his last three games in San Diego.

According to Johnson, Jayson Werth is still experiencing hamstring tightness and may not come off the 15-day disabled list when eligible Saturday.

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