The Washington Nationals are overcoming both a rash of injuries and a leaky bullpen to rise in the standings.
Winners of five of their past seven contests, the Nationals aim to continue their good fortune on Tuesday when they play the middle game of a three-game set against the visiting Cincinnati Reds.
Trea Turner homered to highlight his four-RBI performance Monday in a 7-6 win by Washington, which kicked off its six-game homestand by extending its edge to one game over the idle St. Louis Cardinals for the top National League wild-card spot.
Turner has produced multi-hit performances in five of his past nine games, during which he has scored 10 times.
"I feel like I've been seeing the ball pretty good lately," the 26-year-old shortstop said. "(I've been) trying to get them in the zone, and once I got that pitch in the zone (on his three-run homer Monday), I got a piece of it and that was the difference."
While Turner came to play in the series opener, the Nationals soon could see the returns of three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (back), first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (foot) and star outfielder Juan Soto (sprained right ankle).
Scherzer is expected to throw a simulated game on Tuesday. Zimmerman reportedly will return to the lineup soon, and Soto tested his ankle prior to the series opener against the Reds. Soto got hurt Sunday in the series finale against the New York Mets.
"I told him, 'You gave me a heart attack, you really did,'" Washington manager Dave Martinez said Monday of Soto. "Now we know he's good and he's going to be OK. It's just continuing to strengthen him. He was adamant today about wanting to do something, but we said we had to know where he's at, got to test it."
Rookie Aristides Aquino is passing the test with flying colors, as the National League Player of the Week belted a two-run shot Monday to set a major league record with his eighth homer in his first 12 career games.
The homer extended Aquino's RBI streak to seven contests, giving him 16 since his promotion from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 1.
"A lot of us say we've never seen anything like it, and that would explain it," Reds manager David Bell said. "It's never happened before. We've been talking about him now, and the great thing is, with the success, just the way he's handling it, just his maturity level. He's handled it with a lot of poise, and we believe in him. We believe that he's going to keep going."
Washington right-hander Joe Ross (2-3, 6.75 ERA) will be tasked with keeping Aquino in check when he gets the nod on Tuesday.
Ross followed up allowing one hit in 5 1/3 innings of a 3-0 win at Arizona on Aug. 2 by scattering three hits over six scoreless frames five days later in a 4-1 win at San Francisco.
The 26-year-old owns a 1-0 record with a 3.65 ERA in two career starts against Cincinnati, although Tucker Barnhart is 4-for-4 versus the hurler.
Cincinnati left-hander Alex Wood (1-0, 5.65 ERA) will look to avenge a porous outing in his last start when he gets the nod on Tuesday.
Wood allowed five runs on eight hits in three innings of a no-decision against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
The 28-year-old sports a 5-3 mark with a 2.59 ERA in 12 career starts versus Washington, but Anthony Rendon is a robust 12-for-21 with a homer against him.
--Field Level Media