Nationals-Phillies Preview

The Washington Nationals are about to end a weekend trip to Philadelphia, though Bryce Harper probably wouldn't mind staying a little longer.

The Phillies can't wait for their NL East rivals to leave.

As Harper aims for a sixth consecutive game at Citizens Bank Park with a home run, the Nationals attempt to extend the best start in franchise history with a seventh straight win in Sunday's finale of a three-game series.

Washington moved to 9-1 in manager Dusty Baker's first season with Saturday's 8-1 rout, with Harper finishing 2 for 3 with three RBIs to back Max Scherzer's seven strong innings. The reigning NL MVP has homered in three straight and produced nine RBIs on a 6-of-11 clip over that period.

Harper went 3 for 4 with a two-run shot in Friday's 9-1 win and is 12 for 20 with six homers and 12 RBIs over his last five in Philadelphia, all Nationals' victories. Washington has won eight of nine at Citizens Bank Park.

''I see the ball really well here,'' he said. ''It's a great place to play.''

Harper isn't the only one off to a torrid start. Daniel Murphy is 12 for 25 over an eight-game hitting streak and Wilson Ramos 10 for 19 over a five-game tear, supporting a pitching staff that's posted an MLB-leading 1.98 ERA.

Washington starters have yielded three runs in 35 1-3 innings over the last five wins, limiting opposing hitters to a .154 average. That stretch began with Gio Gonzalez's six scoreless innings Tuesday against Atlanta, though the left-hander didn't receive a decision in the 2-1 victory.

Gonzalez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) allowed three hits and a walk in his first outing since a March 27 spring game.

''He was very sharp," Baker said. "You wouldn't know that he had missed two weeks.''

Gonzalez also was on point last September at Citizens Bank Park, striking out a season-high 12 over seven innings of a 12-2 win. The two-time All-Star was 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA in four 2015 starts against the Phillies and is 6-0 with a 1.49 ERA in his last 11 matchups with NL East teams.

He'll face an anemic Philadelphia offense that's hitting .166 over the last five games and has yet to record 10 hits in any of the first 12, matching a dubious franchise record to begin a season set in 1967.

Darin Ruf made his first start in left field Saturday in an attempt to spark the lineup, but was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Ruf, however, is 8 for 23 with three homers off Gonzalez.

Philadelphia (5-7) had withstood its scoring woes by receiving a 2.14 ERA from its starters through the first 10 games, but Jeremy Hellickson and Aaron Nola allowed 11 earned runs over eight innings in this series.

The Phillies hope Charlie Morton (1-1, 5.23) can duplicate his last start, a three-hit, seven-strikeout effort over 6 2-3 innings in Tuesday's 3-0 win over San Diego. The offseason addition was reached for six runs in 3 2-3 innings in his April 7 debut in Cincinnati.

Morton was hammered in his lone 2015 meeting with Washington, however, recording only two outs while surrendering nine runs and eight hits in a 9-2 loss with Pittsburgh on June 21. He allowed a two-run homer to Harper and an RBI double to Gonzalez before exiting.

Harper is 3 for 5 overall against Morton and Ramos 5 for 11.


More MLB