Washington will continue its tour against American League opponents tonight in the opener of a three-game series versus the Kansas City Royals at Nationals Park, and is 1-8 thus far into a stretch of 15 consecutive matchups with the Junior Circuit. It was swept in three games in Detroit and just dropped all three encounters with the Chicago White Sox in DC, including Sunday's 6-3 loss in the series finale.
John Lannan started for the Nats yesterday and fell to 2-5 on the season after he allowed five runs on 11 hits over four innings. Adam Dunn, Roger Bernadina and Wil Nieves were each credited with an RBI for the Nationals, who are 11 games off the lead in the NL East. Dunn entered Sunday's game batting .313 with 17 doubles, 15 homers and 35 RBI in 52 games beginning April 23.
"We're struggling. We're sticking together, though, and we're going to pass the character test," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said.
Riggleman hopes veteran starter Livan Hernandez can pass the test when he makes his 14th start of the season Monday night. Hernandez is going through his own share of struggles as evidenced by his 1-3 record and 4.89 earned run average in his previous seven starts. Hernandez last pitched in Wednesday's 8-3 loss against the Tigers, allowing a season-high eight runs on seven hits and a season-worst six walks.
The right-hander had allowed just two runs in each of his past three outings before getting rocked at Comerica Park. Opposing batters are hitting just .238 against Hernandez, who is 3-1 in seven home starts this season and 5-4 overall to go along with a 2.94 ERA. He is 2-0 with a 4.50 earned run average in three career starts against the Royals.
Kansas City is also in the midst of 15 games in a row versus the National League and was swept in three games by the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field over the weekend. In Sunday's 8-5 loss in the series finale, losing pitcher Blake Wood gave up three runs in the decisive eighth inning to break a 5-5 tie and send KC to its fourth loss in five tries.
Former Brave Kyle Davies took the hill for the Royals and did not figure into the decision, allowing four runs on four hits and seven walks with six strikeouts through 4 1/3 innings.
"I grew up a Braves fan, it's good to see them doing well," said Davies, who is from Decatur, GA and played with Atlanta from 2005 through parts of 2007. "As far as the game goes, it was a little frustrating because if I'd have had my command, it might have been a different outcome."
Chris Getz had two hits and two RBI, while Jose Guillen ended 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. Mitch Maier and Brayan Pena both knocked in a run for the Royals, who are 4-5 so far in their current stretch of meetings with the National League.
Starter Bruce Chen will try to even that mark when he takes the mound Monday versus the Nationals. Chen had won his first three decisions this season before losing to Houston last Wednesday. In the 4-2 defeat following a rain delay, the lefty surrendered four runs -- three earned -- in 5 2/3 innings. He is now 3-1 with a 4.15 ERA in 14 games (4 starts) in 2010.
Chen has pitched to a 2-0 mark in six road appearances, two of which have been starts, and will take on Washington for the 12th time in his career. Chen is 2-1 with a 5.29 ERA in 11 lifetime games (5 starts) in this series.
Kansas City and Washington are meeting for the first time since the 2004 campaign, when the Nationals were located in Montreal. The Expos/Nationals have won five of the six matchups between the teams, including all three contests at Olympic Stadium back in 2002.
KC is 112-129 in interleague action, while the Nationals are 115-126.