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.