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NATIONALS WATCH

Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals for The Washington Times.

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The Nationals vs. today's starter: LHP Zach Duke, plus the lineups

The Nationals head out west for 11 games starting tonight, flying high after a series victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. First up is the Arizona Diamondbacks and left-hander Zach Duke. And there's no one happier to see him than Rick Ankiel, who gets the start in center field tonight with Roger Bernadina in left field. Check out Ankiel's career numbers against Duke below which are rivaled only by Jayson Werth's career numbers against him.

Three Nationals taken in ESPN franchise player draft, none of them Ryan Zimmerman

It's a question that comes up often among writers, fans and even players: If you were starting a team from scratch, who would you pick as your first player, the franchise player? Well ESPN decided to take the question and put it into draft form, in honor of the first-year player draft coming up on Monday. They gathered 30 ESPN Baseball "experts" and had them "draft" one player they'd start a team with right now. Believe it or not, three Nationals went in the top 30 picks, the most picks of any one team besides Florida, which also had three players taken. Only four other teams, Colorado, Tampa, Seattle and San Francisco, had more than one player chosen.

Examining Storen's 10th save of the season

The most intriguing of the three outs Drew Storen got on Wednesday, of course, was the last one: a one-on, two-out strikeout of Placido Polanco, who has hit the Nationals at a .332 clip in his career with more hits against them than against any other team in the National League.

Another look at Laynce Nix's game-saving catch, what made it so good and how valuable he's been

From the bullpen, Drew Storen's view of left field was blocked. As Doug Slaten's 1-0 fastball rocketed off the bat of Domonic Brown with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning, Storen could see Laynce Nix sprint to his left but that was it. The ball looked like a sure hit. Even Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said he thought there was "no way" the ball would be caught. It was a standard double in the gap. So, from the bullpen, Storen had no idea immediately if the Nationals 2-1 lead over the Phillies had been preserved. What he could see, though, was right fielder Jayson Werth.

Riggleman addresses team meeting and small ball reputation

Before the Nationals' 10-2 victory over the Phillies on Tuesday, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman called a meeting with his team. It was something he does every year at the 1/3 point of the season but the Nationals struggles the past few weeks certainly added to the timing of the address. He also talked about the misnomer that he is a "small-ball" manager.

Today's lineups

Here are the lineups for today's series finale with the Phillies -- a series that, if the Nationals win, would be just their third series victory over Philadelphia since 2008.

The Nationals vs. today's starter: RHP Roy Oswalt

John Lannan has never beaten the Phillies. It's a fact he knows, his manager knows and, presumably, the Phillies know. So perhaps in an effort to change up his luck, the lefty's name was spelled wrong on the Nationals' lineup card this afternoon, popping in an E where the final A usually is (Lannen). It was an honest mistake, but a comical slip up. While Lannan will have his hands full with Philadelphia, the Nationals will face Phillies right-hander Roy Oswalt for the first time this season.

Espinosa fifth, Bixler in left: today's lineups

With the Nationals facing left-hander Cliff Lee on a hot, steamy D.C. night tonight, manager Jim Riggleman's running out yet another lineup combination in the hopes that his team will be able to continue the small offensive progression they've made the past week or so.

The Nationals vs. today's starter: LHP Cliff Lee

I'm sure Cliff Lee and Jason Marquis weren't the only ones who were glad that tonight's game is being played at night. Temperatures were already hovering around 100 degrees by early afternoon and it should be an extremely hot batting practice. Gametime is at 7:10 and perhaps it will have cooled a few degrees by then. All that said, it likely won't make Lee any easier for the Nationals hitters.

Burnett: "I've just been terrible."

Sean Burnett stood in front of his locker Monday afternoon and classified his season -- or at least the last five weeks or so of it -- as "terrible." From a promising start, a spotless spring training and use in save situations early this season, Burnett has take a tumble. He'll be the first to admit it. "I feel good, I feel strong, but I've just been terrible," he said. "No way to explain it, just flat out terrible."

Juggling the Nationals outfielders and other pregame notes

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman has a predicament. He has three left-handed hitting outfielders and only two spots. He has a guy in Laynce Nix who's been his team's most consistent hitter -- and a middle-of-the-order bat who's been irreplaceable, a young outfielder who needs a chance to play consistently in Roger Bernadina and the team's opening day center fielder in Rick Ankiel trying to find his way back into the lineup after an injury. It's going to cause some lineup shuffling.

Bernadina, Desmond sit: today's lineups

Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond are both getting the day off with Rick Ankiel playing center and sliding into the leadoff spot and Danny Espinosa moving up to No. 2 in the lineup. Alex Cora will take Desmond's place at shortstop and bat eighth.