What to Watch for: 9.14.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (68-79) vs. Washington Nationals (78-69)

LHP Cole Hamels (7-13, 3.45) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (10-6, 3.31)

When pretty much everything goes right – the offense, defense and pitching all clicking at once – good things usually happen. The Nationals have had all three aspects of the game working at the same time for arguably the first time all season over the past week, leading to their seven-game win streak entering Saturday night’s game with the Phillies. And if the last week has seemed particularly fun for Nationals fans, there’s a reason why.

Yes, Washington scored in each of the first two innings in three of their last four games. Yes, the Nats have out-homered their opponents 19-0 over the streak. But even more impressively, they have not trailed following an at-bat since the ninth inning of their last loss, last Friday night in Miami.

Really think about that. The only two times the Nationals have found themselves behind in the last week – down 1-0 after the top of the first inning Friday night against the Phillies, and 3-1 after the bottom of the second last Sunday in Miami – they have erased the deficit in the very next half inning, never to trail again. Since the beginning of play last Saturday, Washington has held a lead at the end of 51 of the 63 innings played.

The Nationals would love another quick start tonight, as they face off against Cole Hamels in a matchup of premier NL lefties, with Gio Gonzalez going for Washington. They will need another win to stay within four games in the loss column of Cincinnati, a 7-3 winner at Milwaukee earlier this afternoon.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Ian Desmond SS

5. Bryce Harper LF

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Tyler Moore 1B

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Gio Gonzalez LHP

HOMER HAPPY

Ryan Zimmerman has homered nine times in his last 11 games, and has already matched the club record for home runs in the month of September. Adam LaRoche set that mark last season, but Zimmerman will have 15 more games this month to set a new mark. Zimmerman also now leads the Nationals in homers, something he has done outright only once before (24 in 2007). He also shared the team lead with 14 homers in ‘08.

20-20 VISION

Ian Desmond sits just a single steal shy of recording his second consecutive 20-20 season. He would be the first National to accomplish the feat more than once. Washington’s previous two 20-20 campaigns came from Desmond (25 HR, 21 SB) in ‘12 and Alfonso Soriano (46 HR, 41 SB) in ‘06. Only Carlos Gonzalez (26 HR, 21 SB), Mike Trout (23 HR, 32 SB) and Hunter Pence (22 HR, 21 SB) have already attained 20-20 status in ‘13.

NATS BY THE NUMBERS

Washington has homered in a season-high seven straight games. Jim Lett’s bullpen has tossed 19.0 consecutive scoreless innings. Washington is 14-7 (.667) in games not started by their original starting rotation (Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler) in ‘13. Wilson Ramos has started a Nationals record 21 consecutive games behind the plate and is one game shy of matching the longest such streak of the season (Yadier Molina, 22) in Major League Baseball.

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