Nationals-Phillies Preview

The Associated Press

The Washington Nationals are poised to build on a much-needed victory and enter the All-Star break atop the NL East.

They'll have the opportunity to do both Sunday against the last-place Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Ryan Zimmerman singled in the go-ahead run with two outs in the 10th inning, and ex-Phillie Jayson Werth homered and had three RBIs as Washington (50-42) avoided a third straight defeat with a 5-3 victory Saturday.

"Huge win coming back with a day game (Sunday) right before the All-Star break," Zimmerman said.

Though the Nationals have split their last eight contests following a five-game winning streak, they are tied with Atlanta atop the division. Washington was six games back of the Braves in the East at the All-Star break last season.

Three of Werth's four hits in his last 15 at-bats have left the park, while Zimmerman is batting .400 (16 for 40) with nine RBIs over his last 11 contests.

Zimmerman is hitting .348 (16 for 46) with seven doubles and two home runs against Philadelphia's Kyle Kendrick (4-8, 4.46 ERA), who hopes to end a three-start losing streak to Washington during which he's allowed 16 runs, 25 hits and nine walks in 15 2-3 innings. He gave up four of those runs and five walks in seven innings of a 4-2 road loss June 5.

Though the right-hander earned the win in Tuesday's 9-7 victory at Milwaukee, he allowed seven runs on three homers in 5 2-3 innings. He yielded five of those runs in the first inning.

Kendrick has given up a major league-leading 21 earned runs and has a 10.50 ERA in the first this season, but 36 runs and a 3.34 ERA in every other inning.

"Baseball is crazy, man," he told MLB's official website.

Nine games back of the Nationals, Philadelphia (42-54) struggled to score Saturday after it averaged 6.2 runs while winning its previous five in a row.

Marlon Byrd had two RBIs and is 4 for 9 in the first two of the set for the Phillies, who are 4-9 at home since last winning a series there against San Diego from June 10-12.

Ryan Howard, meanwhile, is 0 for 13 with seven strikeouts in his last three games against the Nationals.

Howard's one hit in two at-bats against Washington's Tanner Roark (7-6, 3.12) went for a three-run homer.

The right-hander won four straight starts and allowed five runs with 28 hits in 31 1-3 innings in his previous five outings before giving up eight and 19 hits in 13 innings to lose his last two - both against the Chicago Cubs. He yielded four runs and nine hits in seven innings of a second consecutive 7-2 defeat to the Cubs on July 4.

Roark believes he needs to improve his pitch selection in order to get back on track.

"I have to execute the pitches that I want and shake off whenever I want," he said. "Not just throw whatever the catcher is putting down. That has been the biggest thing for me."

Roark also hopes for a better performance against the Phillies after he allowed seven runs and homers to Howard and Cody Asche in four innings of a 7-2 road loss May 3.

What to Read Next