The Washington Nationals, in the midst of a hot stretch, keep showing different ways that they are making progress.
"It has been so much fun this last month to see the growth of our young guys," Washington manager Davey Martinez said.
The Nationals were no-hit by Philadelphia's Michael Lorenzen on Aug. 9, but Washington showed it could hit the right-hander on Friday. A six-run fourth inning sent the Nationals on their way to an 8-7 victory in the opener of a three-game series.
"I was just out of sync," Lorenzen said. "I was having to think way too much about what my body was doing to make certain pitches."
That was another sign that, in Martinez's mind, demonstrates how the Nationals are maturing.
"It felt good," the manager said. "I was proud of the guys. They were ready."
After the Saturday game, the teams will conclude the series on Sunday night in the MLB Little League Classic at Williamsport, Pa.
"We always tell each other we're going to surprise some people," said Nationals shortstop CJ Abrams, who hit a three-run homer on Friday. "I think we've done that, and we're going to keep going."
The Nationals hope outfielder Stone Garrett, who went 3-for-4 in the series opener, can stay hot. He has a seven-game hitting streak (13-for-25, .520) during which he has produced five multi-hit games.
Meanwhile, the Nationals will attempt to slow Philadelphia slugger Kyle Schwarber, who homered twice on Friday.
"I know he's with the Phillies," Martinez said. "I love him."
Washington used six relievers on Friday, but that doesn't mean the staff has been taxed.
"Our bullpen has been lights out, we'll see how they are (Saturday)," Martinez said.
Right-hander Jake Irvin (3-5. 4.76 ERA) will start for Washington on Saturday. Even though he hasn't taken a loss since July 3, it has been far from smooth for the rookie.
Irvin matched his longest outing of the season on Aug. 12 against the Oakland A's, giving up two runs in 6 2/3 innings. He has surrendered a total of nine home runs across his past five appearances, accounting for most of the 14 total runs he allowed during that span.
The good news for the Nationals is that they're 5-0 in Irvin's last five starts even though he has four consecutive no-decisions.
Cristopher Sanchez (1-3, 3.39) is Philadelphia's projected starter for Saturday. The left-hander will try to replicate his latest start, when he logged six innings of two-run ball and gained the victory on Aug. 11 against the Minnesota Twins. He threw a career-high 107 pitches in that game, with the main downfall coming from yielding a season-high three walks.
Sanchez has pitched at home in five of past six outings. In each of his three road appearances this year, the games have gone to extra innings (with the Phillies going 2-1 in those contests).
In six career appearances (three starts) against the Nationals, Sanchez is 1-1 with a 5.30 ERA in 18 2/3 innings. He allowed two runs, one earned, over six innings in a 2-1 home loss to Washington on June 30.
The Phillies got some bad news on Friday when they had to scratch Ranger Suarez from his scheduled Sunday start in Williamsport due to a sore right hamstring. Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson was uncertain how long Suarez would be sidelined.
"It happened in Toronto," Thomson said. "The day he got sore, he was shagging and looked normal, and (he) said he went in the shower and it started stiffening up. ... A lot of times your legs get aggravated on that turf, so I'm hoping that's all it was."
—Field Level Media