The NL East-leading Washington Nationals ended a three-game slide with a stunning offensive display.
After roughing up Seattle staff ace Felix Hernandez, the Nationals go for an 11th straight win over the Mariners in the middle game of this series Saturday night.Washington (76-57) hammered Hernandez for four of its six homers Friday, en route to an 8-3 win at Safeco Field. That was a welcome performance after the Nationals plated nine runs while hitting .225 in their previous three."I don't think it was necessarily what he did, it's more what we did," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "We brought a good approach to the plate and we were able to fight off some tough pitches. He was making good pitches down in the zone and we forced him to get the ball up and we were able to make him pay."Desmond was one of five Nationals to connect for at least one homer Friday, with Wilson Ramos getting two. Desmond is batting .409 (9 for 22) with two homers and four RBIs in five games, while Anthony Rendon is 7 for 16 (.438) with a pair of home runs and doubles in the past four.The Nationals, who have outscored Seattle 49-25 in winning the last 10 matchups since an 8-1 loss on June 13, 2004, will hand the ball to Stephen Strasburg (10-10, 3.59 ERA).Set to face the Mariners for the first time, Strasburg was knocked around for five runs and two homers in four innings of a 14-6 win over San Francisco on Sunday. The right-hander had allowed two runs in 15 innings while winning his two prior outings."You want to challenge them, but at the same time you have to focus on hitting your spots. I really wasn't doing that," Strasburg told MLB's official website.Strasburg's 202 strikeouts are a career high, and five short of Gio Gonzalez's total in 2012 for the most by a Nationals pitcher since the franchise relocated from Montreal in 2005. Passing Gonzalez would make Strasburg the first pitcher in franchise history to get at least 208 since Javier Vazquez had 241 in 2003.The Mariners are one game back of Detroit for the AL's second wild-card spot after dropping three of four games following a 10-3 stretch.They're turning to Roenis Elias (9-11, 4.01) after pushing Chris Young's scheduled start back to Monday against Oakland in an effort to give him extra rest.Elias could use some help, as he's 2/3 with a 2.05 ERA over his last six starts while being backed by two total runs in four of those games that ended in Mariners defeats. The left-hander hasn't received any runs of support in his past two games, losing both while allowing two runs with 10 strikeouts and 10 walks in nine innings.He hasn't completed six innings in eight starts, and he battled through 101 pitches in five innings while allowing one run with four walks in a 2-0 loss to Texas on Monday."I'm not sure what's going on -- can't quite put my finger on it, but we've got to get it straightened out," manager Lloyd McClendon said.