(Sports Network) - After getting their current West Coast trip off to a successful start, the Washington Nationals will try to maintain their strong play of late when the club continues a four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight at Chase Field.
Washington opened this seven-game trek, which also includes a stop in Los Angeles, with a 3-1 victory over the NL West cellar-dwelling Diamondbacks on Monday. The win was the fifth in seven games for the Nationals, who took two of three bouts with NL East contenders Atlanta and Philadelphia prior to last night's triumph.
Ex-Diamondback Livan Hernandez and Sean Burnett combined for a five-hitter in Monday's opener, with Hernandez (8-7) working the first 7 2/3 innings before Burnett retired the final five Arizona hitters in order to register his first save of the season.
Ivan Rodriguez and Adam Dunn backed Hernandez with solo home runs off Arizona starter Rodrigo Lopez, while Josh Willingham finished 2-for-4 and contributed an RBI single to the winning effort.
Rodriguez's blast was the 300th of his career as a catcher, joining only four other backstops to accomplish such a feat.
"It takes a lot from you [to hit 300 home runs as a catcher]," said Rodriguez afterward. "To be able to get it done is a nice feeling."
Lopez (5-10) pitched well despite serving up the two homers, with the veteran righty lasting seven innings and allowing three runs on seven hits.
"Early in the game I was leaving the ball up and making pitches, and they took advantage," Lopez said."
The Nationals will try to make it two straight wins in this series tonight behind Scott Olsen, who makes his second start since returning from a two- month stint due to shoulder inflammation. The left-hander put forth a solid comeback effort on Thursday, holding NL East-leading Atlanta to three runs -- two earned -- and five hits over six innings to lead Washington to a 5-3 verdict.
Olsen, now 3-2 with a 3.67 earned run average in nine starts this season, has posted an impressive 2.66 ERA along with a 1-0 mark in four road assignments thus far in 2010. He hasn't fared well at Chase Field in the past, however, having surrendered 18 runs and a whopping 30 hits over a combined 14 1/3 innings in two losses and a no-decision at the venue.
In four overall starts against Arizona, Olsen is 0-2 with a poor 8.86 ERA.
Joe Saunders makes his home debut for the Diamondbacks tonight and second start since being acquired from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as part of the July 25 trade that sent ace pitcher Dan Haren to the Halos. The 2008 American League All-Star limited the Phillies to two runs and scattered nine hits over seven innings this past Thursday in Philadelphia, but wound up with a no-decision in a game Arizona lost in extra frames.
Saunders compiled a 33-14 record in helping the Angels to back-to-back AL West titles in 2008 and 2009, but had slipped to 6-10 with a 4.62 ERA in 20 appearances this season before the trade. The 29-year-old also allowed 14 home runs in 120 2/3 innings during his time in Anaheim this year.
The former first-round draft pick will be taking on the Nationals for the first time and has never previously pitched at Chase Field as well.
Monday's tilt marked the first meeting between the Diamondbacks and Nationals this season. Washington won five of the six games between the clubs in 2009.