Looking up at Atlanta and Philadelphia in the National League East, Washington understands that its current 11-game homestand comes at a pivotal point in the season.
With a 27-19 record at home this year, the Nationals know this is the time to make up some ground.
The Nats will hope to do just that on Saturday night against the Dodgers at Nationals Park. Washington took a 3-2 loss on Friday after closer Rafael Soriano surrendered a solo home run to Andre Ethier in the top of the ninth inning.
"If you're doing the things I know you're capable of doing, it doesn't matter to me whether we're at home or on the road," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "We need to win ballgames. And that's the challenge we've got in front of us. We've got 11 games here, so we need to play good here and we need to play good all the way, not just this coming homestand."
Gio Gonzalez gets the nod for the Nationals, while Zack Greinke takes the hill for the Dodgers. Both pitchers have been unbeatable in the last month, with Gonzalez going 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his last four starts, and Greinke going 5-0 with a 2.50 ERA in his past five starts.
Resembling the pitcher that won 20 games for Washington last season, Gonzalez (7-3, 3.03 ERA) has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 11 of his last 13 starts. He also has a 2.18 ERA since May 1.
Meanwhile, Greinke (8-2, 3.49 ERA) is coming off one of his best performances, tossing his fourth career shutout against the Rockies on Saturday in a 1-0 win.
"I stayed good all the way through. I haven't done that in a while," Greinke said after the game. "I felt good out there. It was a fun game."
With just one loss in his last 10 starts, the right-hander has been a huge reason for the Dodgers' recent surge in the NL West.
"From where we were, I think 12 games under [.500], and the way we were able to finish up, we kind of bounced together and put ourselves in a position to be in the race," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "So to get ourselves back in it coming up to the break, that's a small accomplishment in itself. But I want to keep that in context -- and we've talked about it as a team -- because we haven't accomplished anything yet besides getting ourselves back in the race and putting ourselves in position. Hopefully from here we can continue to play well and stay healthy and see what we can do."
Dodgers: Kemp eyes Sunday return
• Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp hit against live pitching before Friday's game against the Nationals, saying he feels ready to return on Sunday, which is the first day he is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list.
Kemp, who is out with an irritated AC joint in his left shoulder, does not believe he will need to go on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.
"He's probably had enough of [rehab assignments]," Mattingly said. "There's a lot of guys who think they don't necessarily need them. Nobody wants them."
• The Dodgers got three regulars back in their starting lineup for Friday night's series opener. Left fielder Carl Crawford (stiff lower back), right fielder Yasiel Puig (sore left hip) and second baseman Mark Ellis (left knee) all were back in the lineup after missing some time with minor injuries late in the first half.
Nationals: Detwiler unlikely for next start
• Johnson said on Friday that it is unlikely that Ross Detwiler will be able to come off the 15-day disabled list and make his scheduled start on Tuesday.
"For me, he would have to throw today or tomorrow, and do a side [session] and then get out and pitch in a game. And I don't think we're going to do it by [next weekend]," Johnson said. "But I'm going to put that question to our great medical staff, see if they can't get him ready to go."
Detwiler has been on the disabled list since July 4 with a lingering back strain. He played catch on flat ground on Thursday, but still had soreness in his back after throwing.
• Nats outfielder Jayson Werth is hitting .326 (44-for-135) with seven doubles, six home runs, 23 RBIs, 21 runs and 19 walks in 38 games since returning from the DL.
• Dodgers left-hander Ted Lilly threw a simulated game before Friday's contest. Dealing with a neck injury, Lilly threw about 20 pitches and used his entire repertoire.
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.