Padres-Nationals Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated July 04, 2013
A lineup change and the return of Wilson Ramos may have gotten their offense on the right track, but the Washington Nationals haven't had much trouble scoring lately with Gio Gonzalez on the mound. The Nationals look to build off their latest effort at the plate for the left-hander Friday night when they host the San Diego Padres, losers of a season-high six straight. After Washington (43-42) was limited to one run and 13 hits in losses Tuesday and Wednesday, manager Davey Johnson mixed things up Thursday. He moved shortstop Ian Desmond up to second in the batting order and dropped outfielder Jayson Werth down to sixth. The immediate results were positive as Desmond and Werth went a combined 6 for 7 in an 8-5 victory over Milwaukee to split the four-game home series. "Yeah, that came out all right,'' Johnson said. "You know, once in a while I have a great idea.'' After missing 44 games because of a strained left hamstring, Ramos went 3 for 4 with a career-high five RBIs and hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the seventh inning. "He's a statement player,'' Desmond said of Ramos. "And definitely somebody who's waiting for his turn in the spotlight.'' Star Bryce Harper hasn't done as well in his four games back after being sidelined with a knee injury. He's 1 for 15 with a homer and six strikeouts, though he has homered in three of four career games against the Padres (40-46). The Nationals have been swinging the bats well for Gonzalez (5-3, 3.09 ERA), giving him 17 runs to help him win his last two starts. He had received 13 total runs during an eight-start winless streak prior to those victories. Gonzalez yielded three hits over seven shutout innings to beat the New York Mets 13-2 on Sunday, leaving him 2-0 with 44 strikeouts and a 1.79 ERA in 40 1-3 innings over his last six outings. Gonzalez, 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in two career starts against the Padres, gave up three runs in 6 2-3 innings before leaving without a decision in a 6-5 win at San Diego on May 17. This time, Gonzalez faces a struggling San Diego team that has totaled seven runs while batting .180 during its losing streak. Logan Forsythe, Chase Headley and Pedro Ciriaco are a combined 6 for 62 over that span. "I think it's looked worse than it has been,'' Headley said. "We've had some at-bats in situations where we had a chance to drive in runs and the guys hit the ball hard and it just hasn't gone in the hole for us.'' Jesus Guzman provided a bright spot with three hits as the Padres dropped to 1-6 on their road trip with an 8-2 loss at Boston on Thursday. Everth Cabrera, who leads the team with a .305 average, is expected to be activated from the disabled list Friday after missing 17 games with an injured left hamstring. The Padres hope to avoid their longest losing streak since a nine-game skid from Aug. 24-Sept. 3, 2011, as they give the ball to Andrew Cashner (5-3, 3.31) to open this three-game series. The right-hander has gone 1-0 with a 2.78 ERA while receiving 13 runs to work with in his last five outings. He allowed two runs over six innings and did not fare in the decision in a 6-2 loss at Miami on Sunday. Cashner gave up three runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 13-4 win in his only career start against the Nationals on May 19. The teams split that four-game series in San Diego.
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