Nationals push for sweep of Diamondbacks

PHOENIX — Washington became the first team to take a series from Arizona this season with its victory Saturday, carried by strong starting pitching and a new-look lineup that produced just enough.

The Diamondbacks are looking to find their way out of an offensive funk.

The Nationals scored seven runs to win the first three games of the series — 2-1, 3-1, 2-1. Tanner Roark, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg made quality starts and the bullpen has thrown 8 1/3 scoreless innings capped by saves from Sean Doolittle (two) and Ryan Madson.

Washington has won 12 of 14 and is challenging Atlanta and Philadelphia for the National League East lead.

Arizona, meanwhile, has lost four in a row for the first time this season and has lost seven of 10 while going through a seaming team-wide hitting slump. The Diamondbacks are 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position in the series, the only hit an RBI single by Zack Greinke in the first game Thursday.

Washington will send one-time Arizona right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to the mound Sunday. Zack Godley is to start for the Diamondbacks.

“I know we haven’t been scoring some runs,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “We had some opportunities. There is a little bit of a theme inside that as well, because when you have a chance to jump out early in the game when they haven’t caught that tail wind you got to take advantage of that.

“Two-out timely hitting can really break the back the opposition and maybe we are not lining the ball up throughout the course of the at-bats when we have the opportunity.”

Washington manager Dave Martinez juggled his lineup Friday, putting Trea Turner back in the leadoff spot with Bryce Harper dropping to second and Anthony Rendon hitting third. He used the same front three again Saturday.

Turner and Rendon homered and Harper doubled when the group was 3-for-11 on Friday, and Harper and Rendon had RBIs on Saturday. Harper doubled in a run, finishing with two hits and a walk, and Turner reach three times on a single and two walks.

“I like it right now, I really do,” Martinez said.

“Trea is doing a good job getting on base, getting things going. Harp’s Harp. It doesn’t matter where you hit him in the lineup. When he gets pitched to, he’s dangerous. The key is getting Rendon back. It makes things click a little bit, and Matt (Adams) is hitting the ball really hard.”

Hellickson (1-0, 2.28 ERA) has fit right into a Nationals rotation that is among the best in the game. He took a perfect game into the seventh inning of his last start at San Diego, a 4-0 victory on Tuesday, before Travis Jankowski opened the inning with a single. It was Hellickson’s first decision in his five starts as the Nationals have slow-played him after signing him late in spring training.

Hellickson has not allowed an earned run in either of his last two starts, throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the Nationals’ 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh on May 3. His 6 2/3 innings in San Diego was a season high, as were his 59 strikes.

He is 0-3 in five starts against the Diamondbacks, including a no-decision this season in which he gave up two bases-empty homers to David Peralta in 5 1/3 innings of a game that Arizona won in the 11th inning. He is 6-6 in 15 starts at Chase Field, most of that coming in his one season with the Diamondbacks in 2015.

Godley gave up four runs and 13 baserunners in five innings in a start at Washington on April 27 but was credited with the victory when the Diamondbacks scored five runs against Strasburg.

Godley (4-2, 3.83) has given up 17 runs (16 earned) in his last 26 innings to move his ERA to a season-high 3.83. He is 3-1 with a 4.00 ERA in six career appearances (four starts) against the Nationals. He is 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA at Chase Field this season.