While the Nationals still have faint playoff hopes, the season has not gone according to plan.
"I don't like to go back and start analyzing what happened, but some guys struggled early on," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "[Opening Day second baseman] Danny Espinosa was really struggling. [Denard] Span, new league, he was struggling getting on. And then we had injuries, key guys going down. All kinds of little things keeping guys from getting going."
Well, the Nationals have gotten it going lately and Gio Gonzalez hopes to continue the trend on Saturday.
The left-hander threw a one-hitter against the Mets last time out and is 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA in seven career starts against the Phillies. The Nationals have won six of those games and if they hope to make it seven of eight, they will need to score some runs against Cole Hamels.
The Phillies' season has been a disappointment, but Hamels is not giving in and wants to make sure his team finishes strong.
"The season is going to end really shortly, and if you don't take it serious, it all adds up," Hamels said. "Your stats and everything that you do, personality-wise, is going to add up and it's going to translate into the future of how you play and what you expect out of yourself. Everybody has to try to take it serious and play all the way through."
Hamels hasn't lost since July 26, has allowed three runs or fewer in nine straight starts and has an ERA of 2.18 since July 4.
Phillies: Hernandez a 'pleasant surprise'
Cesar Hernandez's natural position is second base, but he has started seven of the last eight games in center field and has been a "pleasant surprise," according to Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg.
"His stride and his foot speed and his speed to the gaps has been very good, calling off corner outfielders on balls," Sandberg said. "So, pleasant surprise. It's not an easy position, by no means. But I think his athletic ability has allowed him to cover the position very well, and he finds himself in the lineup."
Hernandez is signed through the 2015 season and with Chase Utley at second, the Phillies needed to find a spot for the 23-year old, so he began playing center in July at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Nationals: Strasburg scratched from start
Stephen Strasburg was scratched from Friday's start due to tightness in his right forearm, but is expected to start Thursday, his next scheduled start.
"All the doctors think it's a non-issue," Johnson said. "We'll give him some rest. There might have been some inflammation in there or something."
The right-hander originally felt soreness Thursday while working on a new pitch, but pitching coach Steve McCatty doesn't feel the soreness -- possibly caused by the new pitch -- is anything significant.
"All pitchers play with grips all the time," McCatty said. "When you play catch, you turn the ball different ways, you put pressure on a finger, whatever you do, you're messing around. That's all he was doing."
• The Nationals are 10-7 against the Phillies this season.
• Denard Span has a 24-game hitting streak, the longest active streak in the Majors.
William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.