Yankees-Nationals Preview

The Washington Nationals have built a solid lead in the NL East

thanks in large part to an outstanding starting rotation. A

similarly strong recent performance by the New York Yankees’

starters has lifted the club into first place in its division.

Runs may be hard to come by when the Yankees visit the Nationals

on Friday night in a matchup of clubs riding six-game winning

streaks – currently the longest in the major leagues.

Washington (38-23) continued its roll Wednesday behind Stephen

Strasburg, who turned in the latest strong outing by a Nationals

starter with six innings of two-run ball in a 6-2 victory over

Toronto. Strasburg, who departed because of a cut on his finger, is

part of a young rotation that boasts a 2.94 ERA – best in


That’s helped Washington to nine wins in 11 games and a 4

1/2-game advantage in the division.

“We’re no longer a secret to anybody,” said manager Davey

Johnson, whose team has allowed three or fewer runs in seven of

eight games. “We’re a pretty good ballclub, and not just


The Nationals will send the surging Gio Gonzalez (8-2, 2.35 ERA)

to the mound as they go for their first seven-game winning streak

since an eight-game run June 10-18, 2011. The left-hander has gone

6-1 in his last seven starts and bounced back from a loss with a

4-2 victory over Boston on Saturday, allowing two runs in 6 1-3


Though he’s been dominant this season, Gonzalez will be trying

to turn around his fortunes versus New York. He went 1-4 with a

7.27 ERA in five matchups during his four years with Oakland and

was doomed in part by wildness, walking 20 over 26 innings in those


Gonzalez, though, has walked only 30 in 12 starts this


While Washington’s starters have been pitching well for most of

the year, the Yankees’ rotation has become a strength of late after

a slow start. The starters have posted a 2.02 ERA in the last 12

games – during which New York has gone 10-2 – and a 2.92 mark over

the club’s current 16-4 stretch.

Phil Hughes (6-5, 4.76) has mirrored the rotation’s rise, going

5-1 with a 3.50 ERA in his last seven starts and giving up three or

fewer runs in all but one. He defeated the Mets 4-2 on Saturday

with 6 1-3 innings of two-run ball.

“Starting pitching has been the key,” first baseman Mark

Teixeira told the team’s official website after that outing.

“That’s baseball for you. We feel really good about our starting

pitching right now, and because of that, we can just go out there,

play defense and score enough runs to win the game.”

The Yankees’ bullpen has been very good all season despite

several injuries, posting a 2.70 ERA that’s among the best in

baseball, and one of its key members could return Friday. David

Robertson is likely to be activated after being on the disabled

list since May 15 with an oblique strain.

New York (37-25) will get its first look at Washington star

rookie right fielder Bryce Harper, who’s gone 7 for 13 in his last

three games. Fellow rookie Tyler Moore hit his first two career

home runs and had five RBIs on Wednesday, making him 6 for his last


Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson has gone 7 for 20 with

two homers during a five-game hitting streak.

The Nationals have won four of six meetings with the Yankees

since moving to Washington from Montreal for the 2005 season.