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Despite a stunning hot streak, the Washington Nationals are having trouble moving up in the NL East. The Nationals will try for their fourth straight win when they continue a four-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies at RFK Stadium on Saturday. Washington (29-33) won for the eighth time in nine games on Friday, beating the Phillies 9-8 in 12 innings. The Nationals improved to a major league-best 16-6 since May 18. The Nationals were 14 games under .500 and 11 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on May 17. Washington is still nine games behind New York as the Mets are 13-8 since May 18. Friday's win allowed Washington to move into a tie with Atlanta for third place East.The Nationals went a major league-best 20-6 in June 2005 to take a 4 1/2-game NL East lead by month's end, but manager Frank Robinson said this season's run is different. ''We're winning games, but it's not as exciting,'' Robinson said. ''We're not wining in the eighth or ninth inning, like we did last year. We're getting out in front, which feels a little better. Pinch-hitter Robert Fick - the last position player available for Washington - singled home the winning run in Friday's victory. Ryan Zimmerman , Nick Johnson and Brian Schneider each had three hits for the Nationals, who won even though leading home-run hitter Alfonso Soriano went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts and left nine men on base. ''It just shows where this team is right now. They hung tough,'' Robinson said. ''They didn't hang their hands. The pitching responded, and then Fick - last man standing - came through.'' Ryan Howard , Chase Utley and Pat Burrell each homered for the Phillies (32-29), who have two straight since a four-game winning streak. Philadelphia is 5 1/2 games behind the Mets. Cory Lidle (4-5, 4.83 ERA) will look to help the Phillies bounce back. He allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings of Philadelphia's 4-3 win on Monday, but did not receive a decision. ''I stuck with my plan,'' Lidle said. ''They got three hits in the second inning and I just said I am not going to give up on my plan.'' Lidle is 6-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 12 career appearances, including nine starts against the Nationals franchise. However, he has lost both of his starts against them this season, recording a 4.73 ERA. Lidle is squaring off against Livan Hernandez (5-5, 5.16 ERA) for the second time this season. Lidle allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings against Washington on May 31, while Hernandez gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings for the 3-2 win. Hernandez (5-5, 5.16) won his fourth straight start on Monday, allowing four runs and six hits in six innings of a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves . He owns a 3.33 ERA during his winning streak, which came after he went 0-4 in his previous seven starts. Hernandez is 10-7 with a 3.34 ERA in 23 career starts against the Phillies, including 1-0 with a 5.02 ERA in two starts against them this season.
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