PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals manager Manny Acta often utters the phrase, 'preach and teach.'

With such a young team, it's a phrase that is certainly fitting.

The Nationals own the worst record (6-14) in Major League Baseball, but Acta has seen a whole lot of positives thus far. When things aren't going well in a particular facet of the game, either Acta or one of his coaches will 'preach and teach.'

"It's all about being patient," Acta said. "Get it done and get the guy over, and mostly where we've struggled is with the bases loaded. A lot of times, we have the bases loaded and no outs and we end up just scoring one run, not two.

"We're learning as a team. Like I said yesterday, preach, teach and be patient."

The Nationals have struggled with runners in scoring position. They left eight men on base and were 2-for-13 in that role in Tuesday's 6-3 loss at Philadelphia.

Whether it's leaving runners on base or the bullpen faltering, does it ever get frustrating? Not to Acta.

"It's not frustrating at all," he said. "I don't use that word in my vocabulary."

Part of the future: Shortstop Felipe Lopez stole 44 bases in his last two seasons. He has just three so far in 2007.

But he is hitting .302 and is tied for eighth in the National League with 26 hits.

"I'm very pleased with the job he's done, especially making the switch to shortstop," Acta said. "He's played well for us. He's done a good job leading off. ... Felipe just wants to win. He'll do whatever we want him to do to help the club win. I think he knows he's part of the future here and an important part of our team."

Speaking of the future: Right fielder Austin Kearns recorded his 500th career hit on Tuesday with a two-hit performance.

After hitting 79 home runs and registering 299 RBIs in his first five seasons, he has only one homer and two RBIs so far.

"He has hit the ball hard," Acta said. "It'll come. He'll find the right time, and his power will come."

Kearns isn't too worried.

"I've been hitting the ball well lately," Kearns said. "The homers will come. You can't try and hit them. If I keep hitting the ball hard, I'll be fine."

Down on the farm: Jason Simontacchi is scheduled to start for Triple-A Columbus on Friday. If all goes well, it might not be long before he joins the Nationals.

Simontacchi injured a muscle in his right leg on March 14 in a Grapefruit League outing and has been recuperating ever since.

"If he throws well, and I think one more start or maybe right after this start, he'll be ready to be called back up here," Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said.

Injury updates: Reliever Ray King, who threw 20 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday, will start and pitch one inning for Double-A Harrisburg on Thursday. It's possible that King could re-join the Nationals as early as Friday. ... Nook Logan and Cristian Guzman could also be added to the roster within the next week, according to Acta.

Slow start: The Nationals set an NL record on Tuesday for the most games played (20) to start a season without scoring a run in the first inning. The previous mark of 19 was held by the Cincinnati Reds in 1975. The Nationals extended that streak to 21 on Wednesday.

Coming up: The Nationals will send right-hander Shawn Hill (1-2, 2.92) to the mound in the series finale against Philadelphia's Cole Hamels (2-0, 2.57). Hill has pitched very well on the road with a 1-0 record and 2.77 ERA. This will be Hill's third career start against the Phillies.