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Preview: Nationals at Phillies

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Washington Nationals have won four straight games and are slowly closing the gap on the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. The Nationals will try to keep their surging offense going when they visit the Philadelphia Phillies for the start of a four-game set on Monday. The Phillies have won four of six in July and are coming off back-to-back series wins against first-place teams Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

Bryce Harper was supposed to sit out the weekend after struggling in his return from the disabled list, but the young slugger talked his way back into the lineup and ended up with a combined fours RBIs in Saturday and Sunday victories over the San Diego Padres. Harper, who was voted a starter for the NL All-Star team, is 4-for-6 in the last two games. Philadelphia has put together enough offense to cover its pitching staff even without Ryan Howard in the lineup lately.

TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, ESPN, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network 2 (Washington) Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia

PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals RH Dan Haren (4-9, 6.15 ERA) vs. Phillies LH John Lannan (1-3, 5.15)

Haren has been on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation but is expected to be activated to start in place of Ross Detwiler, who is headed to the DL with back pain. Haren has been the weak link of an otherwise strong rotation and had allowed 20 runs in 18 1/3 innings over four starts before landing on the DL. The veteran right-hander has gone 0-6 in his last eight starts but the two no-decisions in that span came against Philadelphia.

Lannan spent the first six years of his career with Washington before winding up in Philadelphia during the offseason and has been inconsistent with his new team. The 28-year-old lefty was knocked around for four runs on a season-high 11 hits in five innings to suffer a loss at Pittsburgh last Wednesday and has gone more than five innings once in his last five turns. Lannan held his former team to two runs on six hits in five innings but did not factor in the decision on June 17.

WALK-OFFS

1. Harper is 14-for-36 with a pair of home runs in nine career games at Philadelphia.

2. Philadelphia 1B Darin Ruf is 2-for-4 with three runs scored in two games since being recalled to replace Howard.

3. Washington has pulled to within four games of the Braves in the division.

PREDICTION: Nationals 9, Phillies 8

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130708/preview-nationals-at-phillies