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Zimmermann strikes out the side on nine pitches

It's almost summertime in the Valley of the Sun, and the temperature in Phoenix is rising.

The D-backs are following suit and sizzling on the field.

The hottest team in baseball won again Wednesday, this time topping the Marlins, 6-5, in walk-off fashion. The D-backs have won 16 of their last 19 games.

The D-backs lead the Giants by a game in the National League West.

"If we are to sustain it, we have to do what we did last month pitching-wise, or better," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.

Next up for the streaking D-backs: Washington.

The Nationals will take a small measure of momentum with them when they head on their first road trip out west this season, a slate that will take them through Arizona, San Francisco and San Diego. Washington, coming off a series victory over first-place Philadelphia, will start its 11-game trip against Arizona on Thursday.

The four-game series will kick off with Jordan Zimmermann matched against Arizona starter Zach Duke.

"I've made a lot of West Coast trips and have been in some good ones and some bad ones, and I don't get it. I don't get what it is," said Washington manager Jim Riggleman of the hazards of heading out West. "Sometimes people just have trouble with it. The obvious thing is the time change, but I don't think it should be a factor. To me, you win or you lose. You get beat or you beat them. Time change and all that stuff is irrelevant, but baseball history says teams go out there and lose."

Arizona was 3 1/2 games back in the National League West as recently as May 24, but it's crawled into a neck-and-neck battle with the Giants for the top spot. The D-backs, in fact, had won eight of their last nine home games, a trend that puts the Washington series into sharp perspective.

The Nationals will play 11 games in 11 days, and they'll hope to provide Zimmermann with some decent run support. The right-hander, who will be making his first career start against the D-backs, has lost five of his last six decisions, but he's completed six innings and held the opposition to three earned runs or fewer in five straight outings. Zimmermann has more strikeouts than walks in nine of his first 10 starts.

Duke, meanwhile, has only made one start this season. The veteran southpaw started the season on the disabled list due to a broken hand suffered in Spring Training, but he threw seven shutout innings and hit a three-run homer in his first regular-season start. Duke, acquired during the winter from Pittsburgh, was 45-70 with a 4.54 ERA in six years as a Pirate.

Nationals: Morse on a tear of late
Mike Morse continued his hot streak with a hit and a walk in Washington's victory over the Phillies on Wednesday, a result that only accentuated his longer run of dominance. The 29-year-old batted a league-best .403 (25-for-62) with six home runs and 15 RBIs in the month of May, and he's now hit in 10 straight games at a .410 clip (16-for-39).

The Nationals have used Morse at first base and in left field this season, and he's hit in all but two of the batting slots in the order. Morse has been primarily used as the No. 5 or No. 6 hitter, and he's batting a combined .292 (33-for-113) in those two slots. Morse, who set a career high with 15 homers last year, has gone deep in five of his last nine games.

D-backs: Demel still a ways out
D-backs reliever Sam Demel, who has been on the DL since May 24 with tendinitis in his right shoulder, is at least a couple of weeks away from returning.

"I would say in a best-case scenario, Demel will be back in the middle of the month," Gibson said.

Worth noting
• Washington went 11-17 in May, but 20 of those 28 games were against teams with a winning record.

• Nats second baseman Danny Espinosa is the only rookie in the Major Leagues to lead his team in RBIs (33). Ryan Zimmerman is the only Washington rookie to have done that, having driven in 110 RBIs during his first season in 2006.

• Washington made 47 errors through its first 54 games last season, but it's made only 32 miscues in its first 55 games this season.

• D-backs reliever Juan Gutierrez, on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, could return at the end of the month.

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