Phillies-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

The Washington Nationals' inconsistent offense has come alive lately, combining with stellar pitching during their four-game winning streak.

Jordan Zimmermann hopes both trends continue Sunday night.

Washington tries to extend the franchise's longest winning streak against the Philadelphia Phillies in 22 years by completing a three-game sweep in the nation's capital.

The NL East-leading Nationals (18-9) scored only seven runs during a five-game skid April 26-May 1, but equaled that total Saturday alone.

After winning three straight one-run games, Washington matched its season high for runs in a 7-1 victory over the Phillies - its seventh straight win over the five-time defending division champions.

Gio Gonzalez allowed one run over seven innings, improving the starting rotation's ERA to 2.09 - best in the majors. Former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth hit a three-run home run for the Nationals, who set season highs with three homers and 15 hits.

"It was a good day," said Ian Desmond, who also homered. "It was a nice day to go out and hit some balls on the barrel. If we play another one-run game tomorrow, so be it. We're just trying to collect wins."

The Nationals are in the midst of the franchise's longest winning streak against Philadelphia (13-15) since Montreal won eight straight June 2-July 25, 1989.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said the reasons for Washington's success are simple.

"They (have) good starting pitching and guys that can hit," Manuel said. "That's why they are in first place."

The offense, though, hasn't been very good with Zimmermann (1-2, 1.89 ERA) on the hill.

The right-hander allowed four runs - three earned - in 6 1-3 innings of the Nationals' most recent defeat, a 5-1 loss to Arizona on Tuesday. Zimmermann has received one run or none in four of his five starts, and his 2.16 run support average is among the worst in the league.

"I can't really speak for the offense," Zimmermann said after his last outing. "I just have to go out there and pitch the way I can pitch."

Zimmermann is 0-2 with a 6.60 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies. He'll be opposed by Cole Hamels, who looks to help Philadelphia avoid being swept for the first time this season.

Hamels (3-1, 2.78) didn't get a decision but had another solid outing Tuesday, allowing two runs in six innings of Philadelphia's 4-2 win at Atlanta. Since dropping his first start, he's 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA over his last four while striking out 27 and walking five.

The left-hander had gone 6-0 with a 2.73 ERA over his previous nine starts against the Nationals before allowing three runs in five innings of a 4-2 loss in his most recent outing in the series Aug. 12.

Hamels will look for help from a Phillies offense that has been outscored 11-4 and has as many hits as the Nationals have runs through the first two games of the series.

The team's only run Saturday came on a sacrifice fly from Carlos Ruiz, whose seven-game hitting streak came to an end.

Ruiz still is hitting .419 with three homers, three doubles and 15 RBIs over his last eight. He's 3 for 7 with a homer lifetime against Zimmermann.

The Nationals received good news Saturday, as Ryan Zimmerman said he'll be ready to come off the disabled list for Tuesday's series opener at Pittsburgh.

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