Phillies-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

The Washington Nationals have done their best lately to try to reduce their sizable deficit in the NL wild card race. Having Stephen Strasburg on the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies might further that cause.

The right-hander will try to add to his string of incredible performances against Philadelphia on Friday night, his career-high 29th start of the season.

Washington (77-69) earned its season-high sixth consecutive win and completed a four-game sweep of the New York Mets with a 7-2 victory Thursday. Ryan Zimmerman hit the first of the Nationals' four home runs and pushed them within 5 1/2 games of Cincinnati for the NL's final playoff berth.

"We're creeping a little bit," said Denard Span, who extended his career-best hit streak to 23 games with an eighth-inning double. "We're not worrying about them. I'm pretty sure they're not worrying about us. They're just trying to take care of their business, and we're trying to do the same."

Washington will try to get even closer with a fifth straight home win against Philadelphia (68-78) and sixth in seven overall matchups.

Washington would appear to have a good chance at earning that victory behind Strasburg. He's 2-0 with a 0.39 ERA in three starts against the Phillies this season, and has totaled 29 strikeouts and three walks in 23 innings.

Strasburg (7-9, 2.96 ERA) gave up four runs over six innings in his latest outing Sunday in Miami but benefited from generous run support in a 6-4 win, his first since pitching a four-hitter versus Philadelphia on Aug. 11 for his first shutout.

Strasburg, shut down after his 28th start last season, has one of the best home ERAs in the majors at 1.55 and hasn't allowed a run in his last 13 innings there.

He'll pitch opposite Kyle Kendrick (10-12, 4.51), loser in a career high-tying four consecutive decisions and four straight road starts.

Kendrick is also 1-6 with a 6.08 ERA in his last nine starts but had a solid outing Saturday against Atlanta. He gave up three runs and four hits over six innings while matching a career high with eight strikeouts in that 6-5 victory.

Philadelphia enters this series after earning its five win in six games, 10-5 over San Diego on Thursday. The Phillies top four hitters - Cesar Hernandez, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz - were a combined 9 for 13 with eight RBIs and played a significant role in a six-run first.

"Big offensive night," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "The top four guys in the lineup, there was a lot of action up there with some big hits."

Philadelphia will try to keep rolling by ending a 4-17 stretch on the road. The Phillies, however, have lost seven of eight in Washington and were swept in their most recent visit Aug. 9-11

Span went 5 for 14 (.357) in that series and is batting .375 (9 for 24) in his last six matchups with Philadelphia. The outfielder, though, is just 2 for 12 (.167) against Kendrick this season.

Rollins, one homer shy of becoming the 10th player with at least 200 homers and 300 steals, is 2 for 18 (.111) with seven strikeouts lifetime against Strasburg but one of those hits left the park.

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