Nats look for one in series at Philly; need Maya to step up

The Nationals look to salvage game three of their series with the Phillies Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. They will have to do it with a pitcher who has yet to win a major league game and who faces a veteran hurler that has not lost a game since July 21.

Right-hander Yunesky Maya has had a tough early inning to get through in his first two starts and then has been able to settle down. Last time out in Atlanta, he allowed four runs in the second inning, including two balk calls, but then managed to pitch four more innings. He was facing Derek Lowe, who struck out 12 in the 4-0 loss to the Braves.

Phillies starter Joe Blanton has gone 4-0 with a 3.41 ERA in his last 10 games and is 2-0 in 4 games versus the Nats in Philly. He had 8 strikeouts in six innings, allowing one run in an 11-4 final at Florida Monday.

One thing the Nats have had is great pitching by their bullpen. But as Phil Wood and I discussed on Nats Xtra post game Saturday, it would be nice to get six or seven innings from a Nats starter Sunday so the bullpen doesn't have to do any more heavy lifting.

Maya has been able to go six innings, but not without giving up a four-run inning in there somewhere. With the Phils connecting on hittable fastballs, Maya might consider showcasing his breaking stuff and surprising the Phillies with his fastball later in the count. This "backward pitching" worked at times in his first start after a rocky first frame.

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