Impressive performances on the mound coupled with rallies at the plate have the Washington Nationals surging.
Turning to Tanner Roark could at least keep the pitching success going.Roark looks to extend his dominant stretch and help lead the Nationals to another victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night.Washington (17-12) has won five of six games behind a 1.33 ERA, while holding opponents to .221 batting. The Nationals have enjoyed similar success against Philadelphia (13-14), compiling a 2.12 ERA while winning eight of 10.Stephen Strasburg turned in the latest solid effort in the opener of this three-game set Friday. He gave up three unearned runs on a homer in the first inning before combining with four relievers to shut down the Phillies the rest of the way.The bats produced a three-run eighth inning to power a 5-3 victory, Washington's ninth comeback win in 29 games."They just keep battling," manager Matt Williams said. "Coming back is a trait they have. They fight. It's a very good sign."Williams may also like what he's seen out of Roark (2-0, 2.76 ERA), who is scheduled to take the mound looking to extend his stretch of 18 consecutive scoreless innings over his last three starts.Roark's streak continued with the best performance of his career last Saturday. The second-year right-hander retired the first 16 batters he faced and struck out a career-high eight while tossing a three-hitter in a 4-0 win over San Diego."He's got four quality pitches that he throws," Williams said. "He has the ability to change speeds really well."When he takes the mound he feels like he's under control. There's certainly a trust factor there that he is prepared and he is able to go about it and throw strikes. There's a direct correlation between early outs and getting deep into a game. Early outs mean he's pounding the strike zone and being aggressive."Roark threw two perfect innings of relief to earn an 8-5 win in his only career meeting with Philadelphia on Aug. 10.The Phillies are expected to counter with A.J. Burnett (1-1, 2.15), and each of his last four starts have ended in wins for Philadelphia. His last three outings have come after he learned he had an inguinal hernia, and he's opted to forgo surgery until the end of the season.The veteran right-hander has been superb since, compiling a 0.83 ERA while only mustering a 1-0 record thanks in large part to being backed by four total runs.Burnett's victory came Sunday, when he had a season-high eight strikeouts while yielding five hits in eight innings of a 2-0 win at Arizona."A.J. just doesn't get flustered with any men on base or anything," manager Ryne Sandberg said, "just pitches and battles and competes, maybe takes it up a notch, makes quality pitches."Burnett is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 38 innings over his last five starts against Washington. However, he's struggled with Adam LaRoche, who is 8 for 23 (.348) with a homer and two doubles off him.The first baseman is batting .333 with eight RBIs in the past eight games after his run-scoring single put the Nationals up for good Friday.The Phillies' Marlon Byrd has homered in each of the last two games, and is 11 for 25 (.440) with eight RBIs in the last six.