|Diamondbacks bring series streak into matchup vs. Nationals|
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks opened the season with the best run in the National League in 41 years, relaying on pitching, defense and know-how to overcome the loss of what was expected to be their Nos. 4-5 hitters.
Washington also has played without some key components, but so far the results have not been as good as the teams head into a three-game series at Nationals Park this weekend.
The Diamondbacks (17-7) are the first NL team since the 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers to win their first eight series of a season, and they will send top starter Patrick Corbin to the mound in attempt to get off on the right foot Friday.
Stephen Strasburg will start for Washington (11-14), which broke a four-game losing streak in which it had scored only eight runs by jumping all over San Francisco 15-2 on Wednesday.
Arizona took two of three from Philadelphia, clinching the series with an 8-2 victory in the rubber game Thursday.
Jarrod Dyson, Nick Ahmed and David Peralta homered and Matt Koch made his second quality start to get his first win of the season. The 2001 Mariners are the last team to open the season with nine straight series wins.
Dyson, who hit both of his homers this season in the Phillies' series, is getting a lot of run in the absence of projected right fielder and No. 5 hitter Steven Souza Jr., who suffered a pectoral muscle injury late in spring training and has returned to a throwing program after an earlier setback.
Third baseman Jake Lamb played only four games before suffering a left shoulder injury, and he suffered a setback last week when he was shut down with right elbow tendinitis.
"It's the next man up," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. "It happened all last year and it's starting to happen this year.
"The players who have stepped into the two open spots have done a great job. We have a really good culture here. These guys know what it takes to go out and perform on a daily basis. That's equaled wins so far this season, and we need to continue pressing on."
The Diamondbacks have been carried by a pitching staff that has the only sub-3.00 ERA in the league and a defense that is tied for NFL lead in fewest errors and also ranks No. 1 in the more esoteric total zone fielding runs "saved" above average, according to baseballreference.com.
Corbin, the reigning NL player of the week, is 4-0 with a 1,89 ERA in five starts, with 48 strikeouts and six walks in 33 1/3 innings. He has made good use of a slider that he can command at several speeds.
Corbin is 2-1 with a 3.27 ERA in five career appearances (three starts) against the Nationals. He has not given up an earned run in 10 1/3 innings at Nationals Park.
"We pay a lot of attention to what works for our guys," Lovullo said. "We give them a menu for different reasons and different situations and they go out there knowing what pitches are important to throw. Patrick utilizes that and trusts that. He executes a tremendous game plan."
Washington's Bryce Harper is tied for the NL lead with eight homers, is second with 10 doubles and is tied for third with 19 RBIs, all of which has led some opponents to pitch around him whenever possible.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy walked Harper with first base open and one out in the eighth inning of the Giants' 4-3 victory, preferring to put the potential go-ahead run on base rather than pitch to Harper. The Giants got a double play grounder from next batter Ryan Zimmerman and held on to win.
Harper has 32 walks, eight more than anyone else, and is on pace for 207.
Since winning their first four games, the Nationals are 7-14. They have played without offensive threat Daniel Murphy (knee) all season. Left fielder Adam Eaton (ankle) has not played since April 8, and third baseman Anthony Rendon (toe) has not played in two weeks.
Shortstop Trea Turner had six hits, Matt Adams had six RBIs and rookie outfielder Andrew Stevenson had four hits and four RBIs in the Nationals' 15-2 victory in San Francisco. They scored 14 runs with two outs.
"This could actually jump-start our offense," Washington first-year manager Dave Martinez told reporters.
Strasburg, 2-2 with a 2.97 ERA in five starts, has made three quality starts and has not given up more than four runs in any game. He is 4-2 with a 3.16 ERA in nine career starts against the Diamondbacks.
He was removed from his only start against them last July after two innings with forearm stiffness and missed almost four weeks.