WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf learned before Thursday's day game in New York that he might start Friday for the Nationals in place of Stephen Strasburg.
After the game against the Mets, he knew for sure, and he was not surprised when he showed up at Nationals Park to see his name posted on the starting lineup in the Washington clubhouse Friday afternoon.
"I had enough notice," said Ohlendorf, who improved to 4-0 as the Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-1 to begin an important weekend series. "I have had to be flexible all year."
The right-hander from Princeton allowed just five hits and one earned run in five innings. Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman, a pair of hot hitters, crushed home runs for the Nationals.
The Nationals (78-69) have won seven games in a row and have hit 15 home runs in their last five games. Washington is a season-best nine games above .500 and is 24-9 since Aug. 9, the best mark in the majors during that time.
"It was great for us to get another win," said Ohlendorf, who lowered his ERA to 3.15. "We are playing so well as a team. We are really clicking on all cylinders."
Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick (12-11) lost his fifth straight decision, a career high, and is 0-3 at Nationals Park this year.
"I would say the second half of the season, he just hasn't had his two-seam fastball that has a really good sinking action resulting in ground-ball outs or double-play possibilities with men on base," said interim Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg of Kendrick. "It seems to be a little bit of a flatter pitch right now. And so, tonight, on the flip side, it seemed like they were on top of his pitches and he still wasn't catching a break with them not being hard enough."
Ramos (three RBIs) has five homers in his last nine games, and Zimmerman, who had three hits, has gone deep nine times in the last 11 contests. Ian Desmond also drove in two runs, Washington's Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 24 games with a single in the sixth and left fielder Bryce Harper threw out two runners at second base.
"Ohlendorf has been great for us all year," Harper said.
"He has been a horse out of the bullpen," Desmond said of Ohlendorf, a long reliever earlier in the season. "He is good at what he does. It is not a surprise to any of us."
Strasburg, who is 7-9 with an ERA of 2.96, was playing catch in New York earlier this week and "had some discomfort" in his forearm, according to manager Davey Johnson. "Doctors examined him in New York and didn't think it was anything serious."
Johnson said the soreness is in the upper part of the right forearm and not the lower part that led to Tommy John surgery in 2010. Johnson is confident he will be ready to start Thursday. Strasburg was not available to comment.
Washington took a 6-1 lead in the fifth with three runs. The first run of the inning scored on an RBI infield single by Desmond, and two more came in when Ramos hit a wicked grounder off the leg of pitcher Luis Garcia with the bases loaded.
"It went about three stories high. Nobody knew where it was," Johnson said.
Zimmerman gave Washington a 3-1 lead with a solo homer in the third off Kendrick, who gave up six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. It was Zimmerman's ninth homer of the month.
Ramos hit a solo homer in the second to give Washington a 2-1 lead. The Nationals had tied the game at 1-1 in the first on an infield single by Desmond. The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on an RBI single by Carlos Ruiz.
The Nationals began the day 5 1/2 games back of the Cincinnati Reds for the second Wild Card spot in the National League.
NOTES: Ramos made his 21st start in a row Friday ... "We are still in there," Zimmerman said of the playoff hunt. "We have to keep working hard. We have a long way to go. Hopefully one of those teams will slip." ... Freddy Galvis, who came up through the minor leagues as an infielder, made his ninth start in left field for the Phillies. He has 11 hits in his last 24 at bats ... OF Roger Bernadina, who was not in the starting lineup for Philadelphia, returned to Washington after he was released by the Nationals on Aug. 19.