Nationals-Diamondbacks Preview

The Washington Nationals have responded well to manager Jim
Riggleman’s closed-door meeting, winning two straight games for the
first time in more than two weeks.

Its been much longer since Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zach
Duke has won consecutive starts.

Duke continues his comeback from injury Thursday night when NL
West-leading Arizona opens a four-game home series against
Washington.

After missing most of the season’s first two months with a
broken hand suffered in spring training, Duke (1-0, 0.00 ERA) made
a solid first impression in his Diamondbacks debut Saturday. The
former Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander allowed three hits and one
walk in seven scoreless innings of an 11-3 victory over
Houston.

Duke, who also hit the first home run of his seven-year career,
hasn’t won consecutive starts since July 21 and 27 for
Pittsburgh.

Surprising Arizona (31-25) continues to string together wins,
with 16 in their last 19 games. After seeing their season-high
seven-game streak snapped Tuesday, the Diamondbacks overcame a
four-run deficit and J.J. Putz’s first blown save in 17 chances
Wednesday to beat Florida 6-5.

After Putz gave up a game-tying homer to John Buck in the top of
the ninth, Justin Upton singled home the winning run in the bottom
of the inning.

“You’ve got to play all 27 outs and we used every single one of
them,” Upton said.

Washington (24-31) has bounced back from a 1-8 stretch to record
its first back-to-back wins since May 15 and 16. Riggleman held a
closed-door meeting before Tuesday’s 10-2 win against Philadelphia,
then watched his squad beat the Phillies 2-1 on Wednesday.

“It’s just a feeling you get that guys are getting frustrated
with their numbers not there, and we’re finding ways to lose
games,” Riggleman told the team’s official website. “Let’s get out
there and play baseball, and when it’s all said in done, come in
here, look ourselves in the mirror and know we left it all on the
field.”

Laynce Nix made a diving catch in the sixth to preserve the lead
Wednesday and hit his third homer in his last four starts, bringing
his season total to nine. After playing sparingly with Cincinnati
last season and splitting time in the outfield earlier this year,
Nix has seemed to secure his spot in the lineup by hitting .299
with six homers and 14 RBIs since May 1.

“He’s finally getting a chance to play every day and show what
he can do,” said Jayson Werth, who has one fewer home run than Nix
despite 78 more at-bats.

Werth is 4 for 8 with a home run lifetime against Duke, who will
be opposed by Jordan Zimmermann (2-6, 3.88 ERA). The Nationals
right-hander hasn’t won since May 1, though he has a respectable
3.28 ERA and 26 strikeouts in four starts since.

Zimmermann allowed two runs in six innings of Saturday’s 2-1
loss to San Diego. He has never faced the Diamondbacks.

Washington held a 4-3 edge in last season’s series with
Arizona.