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A successful trip away from home has kept the San Diego Padres atop the tightly knit NL West, and they've assured themselves of being there at the All-Star break regardless of what happens in their series finale against the Washington Nationals on Sunday. The Padres (47-40) are two games ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers , but only five ahead of the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks . San Diego enters this contest on a four-game winning streak and a season-high seven games above .500.''You'd much rather be there than anywhere else,'' Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. ''We've had a tough stretch here and these guys have responded very well.'' Bochy's team is riding its longest winning streak since a five-game run from May 10-14. The Padres beat the Nationals 3-2 in the series opener on Friday, and won 5-2 on Saturday behind six strong innings from Chris Young . Mike Cameron , Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Bellhorn all homered Saturday for San Diego, which has given up just 10 runs during its four-game win streak. Clay Hensley looks to continue that trend of solid pitching by the Padres as he goes to the mound Sunday. Hensley (5-6, 4.16 ERA), who worked out of the bullpen at the beginning of the season, is 0-3 with a 7.24 ERA in five starts on the road since winning at Wrigley Field on May 14 with a two-hit shutout. The right-hander did not get a decision in Tuesday's 6-5 loss at Philadelphia, allowing five runs - three earned - and seven hits in six innings while matching a season high with five strikeouts. This will be Hensley's first career start against the Nationals.The Nationals (38-51) counter with John Patterson (1-2, 4.31), who will make his fourth start after spending more than two months on the disabled list with a right forearm strain. The right-hander has gone 0-2 with a 5.14 ERA in three outings since returning. Patterson was not part of the decision in Tuesday's 6-4 win over the Florida Marlins as he threw five innings, surrendering two runs and four hits while striking out five. He will be facing the Padres for the first time since Sept. 16, when he notched one of the only two complete games of his career with a three-hitter in a 5-1 win. Patterson is only 2-3 against San Diego despite a 3.26 ERA in seven appearances, including six starts. The Nationals are closing a 10-game homestand, having gone 5-4, as they try to avoid a series sweep.''Certainly we would have like to have won this series, going into the break,'' Washington manager Frank Robinson said Saturday. ''But if we win tomorrow's game, we will have had a pretty good homestand. That's the key: Win tomorrow.'' Ryan Zimmerman has an 11-game hitting streak, which matches All-Star starter Alfonso Soriano for the team's longest this season. Zimmerman is batting .419 (18-for-43) with two homers 11 RBIs during his streak. Soriano hit his third leadoff homer of the season Saturday, marking just the second game in his last 19 in which he's homered. He leads the team with 27 home runs.
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