Nationals-Royals Preview

Behind a rare offensive surge, the Washington Nationals are on

the verge of their longest winning streak of the season.

Giving the ball to red-hot Dan Haren doesn’t figure to hurt

their chances.

The Nationals look to bolster their slim playoff hopes as they

seek their sixth straight win in Sunday’s series finale against the

sinking Kansas City Royals.

Ian Desmond hit his 18th home run, while Bryce Harper and Tyler

Moore each added two hits to help Washington (65-64) roll to a 7-2

victory Saturday.

Since averaging 3.0 runs and hitting .143 with runners in

scoring position while losing four of five, the Nationals – who

rank in the bottom third of the majors in both categories – have

scored 7.6 per game and batted .340 in those situations during

their winning streak.

Harper has a .393 average with five doubles over a seven-game

hitting streak, while Moore is 11 for 21 in his last five.

Now the Nationals have a chance to move two games above .500 for

the first time since July 11. They still trail Cincinnati by 8 1/2

games for the NL’s second wild card, but hope to keep chipping away

behind Haren (8-11, 4.64 ERA).

After losing a career-worst eight straight while posting a 6.18

ERA, Haren has gone 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA in his last five starts.

Opponents are hitting just .164 against him in this stretch.

“It’s been unbelievable,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s

been really pitching good. He’s shown he’s a quality pitcher and

he’s bounced back and pitched great.”

The right-hander gave Johnson another solid outing Tuesday when

he gave up one run and five hits over six innings in a 4-2 win at

Wrigley Field.

Haren has been particularly good on the road of late, going 2-0

with an 0.47 ERA with 19 strikeouts over 19 innings in his last

three starts. He’s also been outstanding in Kansas City with a 4-0

record and 1.99 ERA in six career starts.

All-Star Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar are a combined 3 for 21

versus Haren, though recent acquisition Jamey Carroll is 7 for


Billy Butler is hitting .333 lifetime against Haren and has a

.364 average over his last 20 games overall.

Since 17-3 push put them a season-best eight games over .500 on

Aug. 12, the Royals (64-64) have dropped 10 of 12 to fall back to

the break-even mark.

“It’s frustrating,” Gordon said. “I don’t like losing streaks

and I don’t like losing streaks after we’ve been playing so


Kansas City, eight games out of the final AL wild-card spot,

looks to snap a seven-game losing streak by sending Ervin Santana

(8-7, 3.13) to the mound.

The right-hander yielded two runs – one earned – and four hits

in six frames in a 2-0 defeat to the White Sox on Tuesday. That’s

his only loss while winning three and posting a 2.45 over his last

seven starts.

Santana hasn’t faced the Nationals since he was with the Los

Angeles Angels in 2011, but has posted a 3.10 ERA with 20

strikeouts over 20 1-3 innings in three lifetime starts against


Washington’s Jayson Werth hopes to play after sitting out

Saturday with an infection between the toes of his right foot.