MLB Team Report - Washington Nationals - INSIDE PITCH

MIAMI -- It's no wonder the Nationals lead the NL East.

Entering Wednesday, they led the league in ERA (3.11), and their catchers were first in the majors in throwing out attempted basestealers (38.6 percent).

The Nationals are tied for fourth in the NL in fielding percentage, and their glove work has been even better than that lately. From June 7 through Tuesday, the Nationals led MLB with a .995 fielding percentage.

Their errors on a month-to-month basis show their improvement: 26 in April, 20 in May, eight in June and eight in July.

True, the Nationals hit a rough patch this week, dropping two out of three games to the red-hot Miami Marlins, who are chasing them in the division.

But the Nationals have the pitching and defense to make this a mere speed bump on the playoff highway.

The Nationals are just about middle of the pack (sixth) in runs scored. But if they can get third baseman Ryan Zimmerman back soon from a hamstring injury, the offense could be much more productive.


MLB Team Report - Washington Nationals - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 58-47

STREAK: Won one

NEXT: Phillies (LHP Cliff Lee, 4-5, 3.78 ERA) at Nationals (LHP Gio Gonzalez, 6-6, 3.56 ERA)


--RHP Tanner Roark, who is 13-7 in 25 career starts, had another strong effort on Wednesday, beating the Miami Marlins. Roark allowed just three hits, two walks and one run in seven innings, striking out seven. In four career starts against the Marlins, Roark is 2-1 with a 2.39 ERA. He was brilliant in July, going 4-1 with four straight wins and a 2.06 ERA.

--LF Bryce Harper, who missed 57 games due to a thumb injury earlier this season, seems to be coming alive lately. In the first 11 games after the All-Star break, Harper hit .353. But he went 0-for-4 on Wednesday, dropping his season average to .261.

--RF Jayson Werth (swollen right ankle) returned to the starting lineup Wednesday after missing one day. He went 1-for-3 with a crucial eighth-inning RBI. He is hitting .284.

--RHP Rafael Soriano, who has not pitched since he blew a three-run lead on Monday, was rested in an attempt to keep him fresh going forward. "We decided to give him a couple of days because of the amount of pitches he threw Monday and his workload before that," manager Matt Williams said, adding that Soriano should be ready to go Thursday.

--LHP Gio Gonzalez, who broke out as a young star by going 21-8 in 2012, is only 17-14 since then. Gonzalez, who starts Thursday against the Philadelphia Phillies, is on a two-game losing streak and hasn't won since he beat the Chicago Cubs on July 5. The only time he faced the Phillies this season was also a loss, 3-2, on May 4.