For Washington's Ross Detwiler, it's a tangible goal. He's looking for the first road victory of his career. For Cubs veteran Rodrigo Lopez, it's improved form that will keep him in the rotation as a viable option for manager Mike Quade.
Detwiler got close to a win in his last outing, which came Aug. 4 at Coors Field against the Rockies. He was making his first start since July 5 and looked good early, carrying a no-hitter into the fourth inning. But Detwiler had problems keeping his sinker down in the strike zone in the fourth and fifth innings and ended up giving up two runs in five innings.
"I started walking people, and I left the ball up a little bit," said Detwiler, who walked three and struck out one while throwing 66 pitches. "I don't think there's anything mechanical. I threw a lot of fastballs today, and I think they got their timing down."
In the case of Lopez, it's apparent that Quade is willing to trust that the disparity of numbers -- the righty is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA as a starter compared to a 3.72 ERA in 10 relief appearances -- will even out before the season's over.
"I'm committed to him right now," Quade said. "As I look at this thing, we take it four days at a time. We're going to play Washington, which is in the hunt still.
"We've got [series against] contenders the rest of the month, and that's part of the reason I want to keep the pitching in line, at least a couple of the big three [Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza] in each series to face these better clubs."
Nationals: Zimmerman's streak alive
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman singled in his first at-bat Tuesday to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. He is batting .423 (30-for-71) with six doubles, a triple, seven RBIs, five walks, 11 runs scored and two stolen bases in that span. Zimmerman's streak, which began July 22, is the 11th double-digit hit streak of his career.
Michael Morse's .323 batting average is the highest single-season mark in the Nationals' seven-year history among qualified batters. With 47 games remaining, Morse could become the fourth qualified National since 2005 to hit .300 in a single season, joining Dmitri Young (.320, '07), Cristian Guzman (.316, '08) and Zimmerman (.307, '10).
Reliever Sean Burnett has posted three holds and a 1.00 ERA (one earned run in nine innings) in 11 appearances dating to July 19. His four saves are a career high.
Cubs: Castro on a runs run
Shortstop Starlin Castro has scored a run in 10 straight games dating to July 30, a feat previously equaled by Mark DeRosa from May 9-19, 2008. Castro tied the season-high run-scoring streak in the Major Leagues also accomplished by Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist from May 1-12.
The Cubs have hit 16 home runs in a season-high seven straight games. Chicago previously homered in seven straight games in a nine-game streak from July 27-Aug. 4, 2009. The team's 16 homers in its last seven games have come from 10 players, including three from Castro and two apiece from Tyler Colvin, Blake DeWitt, Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto.
The Cubs have scored 66 first-inning runs this season, marking their most productive frame of the year. Chicago has also surrendered 89 first-inning runs this season, the most of any team in baseball.
Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel is 11-for-35 (.313) with two doubles, four homers, nine RBIs and seven runs scored in eight August games.
Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson is hitting .329 (23-for-70) in the seventh inning or later and has 20 RBIs in his last 43 games with an at-bat.