Zack Greinke finds himself on the verge of career victory No. 100 after winning each of his last five outings.
Gio Gonzalez has shined bright during a four-start winning streak of his own.
In what sets up as a pitchers' duel, Greinke takes the mound opposite Gonzalez when the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers continue a three-game set against the Washington Nationals on Saturday night.
While it took some time to find his groove after missing over a month with a broken left collarbone, Greinke (8-2, 3.49 ERA) proved unbeatable toward the end of the first half. The right-hander has posted a 2.50 ERA and limited opponents to a .208 average during his winning streak.
"I think the last few starts are more vintage Greinke. He's as tough a pitcher as you're going to find in the game," teammate Skip Schumaker told MLB's official website.
"It's a lot of fun to play behind (him), because you don't have a lot of time to think about anything else besides what he's trying to do to get outs. Greinke is one of the smartest pitchers I've been around. He's pretty tough when he's on his game."
Greinke was at his best last Saturday in a 1-0 win over Colorado, pitching a two-hitter and striking out nine for his first complete game of the year.
"I stayed good all the way through, I haven't done that in a while," said Greinke, who won a career-high nine straight starts Sept. 13, 2008-May 4, 2009, while with Kansas City. "I felt good out there. It was a fun game."
Greinke has compiled a 1.86 ERA in winning each of his three career outings against the Nationals (48-48). He yielded one run and five hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 3-1 victory May 15.
Gonzalez (7-3, 3.03) also enters this marquee matchup on a roll, posting a 2.00 ERA during his run. In his final start before the All-Star break, Gonzalez surrendered one run and six hits over seven innings in a 5-1 victory at Philadelphia on July 10.
The left-hander, who has been backed by 29 runs of support during his winning streak, had received a combined 13 while going winless in his previous eight outings.
"I have the same focus and trying to attack the strike zone," he said.
In his only matchup versus Los Angeles, Gonzalez yielded two runs, three hits and five walks in six innings in a 2-0 road loss April 29, 2012.
The surging Dodgers (48-47) picked up right where they left off before the break, winning 3-2 on Friday. Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run homer and Andre Ethier delivered a tiebreaking solo shot in the ninth as Los Angeles improved to an NL-best 18-5 since June 22.
"It's weird how confidence can really sometimes sway things, and that feeling can really sway things either way," said Ethier, whose club was 12 games below .500 on June 21. "It was really tough to get that confident, good feeling going. Hopefully we can keep it going."
Ramirez is batting .420 with eight homers, 24 RBIs and 23 runs in his last 27 games. The Dodgers have won 13 straight and are 16-3 when Ramirez drives in a run.
The Nationals' loss was their sixth in eight games, a stretch during which they have gone 5 for 55 with runners in scoring position. Washington went 1 for 9 in such situations Friday, dropping to 5-13 in its last 18 meetings against Los Angeles.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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