Nationals prepare for trio of southpaws

Nationals prepare for trio of southpaws

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals will face nothing but southpaw starters when they take on the Padres in a three-game set this week. San Diego plans to send left-handers Randy Wolf, Shawn Estes and Wilfredo Ledezma to the mound during Washington's visit.

After Monday's loss to the Brewers, Ryan Zimmerman said he thinks some of the right-handed hitters on the team will look forward to seeing so much left-handed pitching.

"I enjoy hitting against left-handers. I think a lot of right-handers do," said Zimmerman, who might see more time off during the series because of a shoulder injury.

The left-handed wave might be just what the Nationals need. Washington travels to the West Coast looking to jumpstart an offense that has struggled all year. So far, the Nationals rank 14th out of 16 National League teams in hitting, ahead of only the Giants and the Padres.

Washington manager Manny Acta acknowledged his offense's struggles, but he said he's confident the Nationals pitching staff can hold the team together while the hitting improves.

"We're still not where we want to be," Acta said of the offense. "I'm not going to come out here and jump around and say I'm pleased with what I'm seeing. I still think we need to get better. ... We're making progress, baby steps, but still nothing to be celebrating about."

Zimmerman pointed out that the ultimate goal is to "have [the opposing starter] out of [the game] in four or five innings.

"Unless you're facing a power lefty, you've got to change your approach, know that they're not going to challenge you as much and kind of change what you want to do, especially with runners in scoring position," he said. "But a pitcher's a pitcher. You've just got to look at the film, make a game plan and take it with you."

Nationals center fielder Lastings Milledge agreed that none of the hitters should get locked in on the starting pitcher. However, he admitted that facing left-handers "makes it a little bit easier" at the plate, and that he enjoys it.

"Pitcher by pitcher, that's all it is," Milledge said. "You have to make constant adjustments. You can't set yourself on one pitcher."

Pitching matchup
WSH: RHP Shawn Hill (0-1, 4.08 ERA)
Hill is scheduled to make his next start against the Padres in San Diego. Hill played catch on Tuesday and still was feeling some pain in the elbow and right forearm, an injury he's had since Spring Training. Hill missed his last start because of the elbow injury.

SD: LHP Randy Wolf (3-4, 4.76 ERA)
Wolf is coming off an impressive outing against the Reds on Thursday, when he limited Cincinnati to two runs on four hits over seven innings. He became the first Padres starting pitcher to pitch seven or more innings since April 27. Wolf had good command of his breaking ball to right-handed batters and his slider to left-handers. He struck out nine and walked one and retired 20 of the final 23 batters he faced.

Tidbits
The Nationals' 4-3 loss on Monday marked their ninth loss in their last 10 extra-inning games, going back to July 25, 2007. ... Nationals pitchers fared well against the Brewers in the strikeout department over the holiday weekend, fanning 40 batters in the four-game series.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MASN 2

On radio
• WWWT 1500

Up next
• Wednesday: Nationals (Odalis Perez, 1-4, 4.13) at Padres (Shawn Estes, 1-0, 2.33), 10:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Nationals (John Lannan, 4-5, 3.57) at Padres (Wilfredo Ledezma, 0-2, 4.65), 3:35 p.m. ET
• Friday: Nationals (Tim Redding, 6-3, 3.59) at Diamondbacks (Micah Owings, 6-2, 3.73), 9:40 p.m. ET

Zachary Osterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.