MLB

Nationals-Phillies Preview

Matt Williams was not pleased with Saturday's events, but they could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the banged-up Nationals.

Washington looks for an eighth consecutive victory Sunday when it opens a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

The teams began play Saturday despite heavy rain in the forecast. The game entered a delay only 32 minutes in, and was finally postponed nearly 90 minutes later.

That turn of events saw both teams waste their starting pitchers, including Gio Gonzalez for Washington.

"It's extremely frustrating," Williams said. "It burned up our pitching. I'm not very happy about it."

Washington (41-33) is riding its longest winning streak since a 10-game run Aug. 12-21. The Nationals have also won seven of the last nine meetings while limiting Philadelphia to 25 runs.

Though they're the hottest team in baseball, the extra day should be helpful for Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Yunel Escobar - none of whom were in Saturday's lineup. Harper, tied for second in baseball with 24 home runs, had missed the last two games with a sore hamstring. He and Span, who was scratched Friday due to back spasms, are day to day. Escobar left Friday's game with a bruised hand after being hit by a pitch.

Washington's disabled list is already crowded with Anthony Rendon (quadriceps), Jayson Werth (wrist) and Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) out.

Michael Taylor has helped prop up the Nationals' offense in wake of the recent attrition, going 11 for 27 during the winning streak with four doubles.

Starting the first game will be Stephen Strasburg (4-5, 5.90 ERA) after one of his best outings of the season in his return from a strained trapezius muscle. He limited Atlanta to four hits over five shutout innings in a 3-1 victory Tuesday.

"Obviously I've been working really hard to get things going in the right direction," he said.

Strasburg, still seeking his first quality start on the road, had been 1-3 with a 10.13 ERA in the five starts immediately preceding his three-week disabled list stint.

"Talking to a lot of guys in the clubhouse while I was away really kind of shed some light, what my strengths, what my weaknesses are," he said. "And I really just tried to pitch to my strengths."

While the right-hander threw 94 pitches versus Atlanta, Williams said he wouldn't have a pitch limit for this outing.

Strasburg is 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA in 13 starts versus Philadelphia, though he gave up six runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings of an 8-1 home loss on May 23.

The Phillies (26-49) have dropped 23 of 30, including a 5-2 series-opening loss Friday hours after manager Ryne Sandberg resigned. Philadelphia's pitching staff owns a 7.36 ERA over the last 10 games with no quality starts.

Game 1 starter Kevin Correia (0-1, 4.30) comes off his worst showing in three outings since being signed June 8. He gave up five runs and eight hits over four innings Monday against the Yankees, though Philadelphia won 11-8.

For the second game, the Phillies will recall right-hander Severino Gonzalez (2-2, 8.69) from Triple-A. Gonzalez hasn't pitched for the big league club since giving up six runs over 2 2-3 innings of a 7-5 loss to San Francisco on June 6.

The Nationals didn't announce their second starter, but Tanner Roark (3-2, 3.25) looks likely. Roark is 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA in five starts and hasn't pitched since throwing two scoreless innings of relief Tuesday versus Atlanta.

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