CHICAGO -- Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth is showing signs of improvement at the plate.

Werth hit his 14th homer in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Cubs and enters Thursday's series finale 15-for-49 [.306] in his last 13 games.

Manager Davey Johnson said that Werth is feeling more comfortable, and it helps that the hitters around him are showing signs of life offensively as well.

"Since some other guys are starting to hit, I think it takes pressure off of [Werth]," Johnson said. "Sometimes, coming to a new ballclub, you put too much on your shoulders. I think he did that coming over here early and kind of got himself messed up a little bit, trying to do too much. He is looking better all the time. He could bust out at anytime."

Before the All-Star break, Werth was having a season he would like to forget, hitting .215 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs. Werth never made excuses as to why he wasn't producing, and although he wasn't productive, general manager Mike Rizzo said Werth brought a winning attitude to the team.

"He has been a huge factor in whatever success we have had this season -- with the attitude that he brings to the clubhouse, the work ethic that he brings to the field, the way he prepares for the game and the way that he feels when he fails," Rizzo said. "He has taught this team how to win. He taught us how to win games late, he taught us how to handle losing streaks. He taught us how to ride the winning streaks. His leadership has been great. He is a good all-around player.

"And I think the way he conducts himself is really a huge factor in that success we have had this year."

Pudge suffers setback with oblique strain

CHICAGO -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson said that catcher Ivan Rodriguez suffered a setback as he recovers from a strained right oblique that landed him on the disabled list on July 7.

Continuing to feel the effects of the strain, Rodriguez is still having problems swinging the bat. He is expected to return to Washington on Thursday. The Nationals were hoping that Rodriguez would have a rehab assignment this past weekend at Class A Hagerstown, but he wasn't well enough to play.

There is no timetable on when Rodriguez will return to action. He has been a backup all season, hitting .214 with two home runs and 14 RBIs.

Johnson riding hot hand with Gomes in left field

CHICAGO -- Manager Davey Johnson said that he is going with Jonny Gomes as his starting left fielder for the time being.

Entering Wednesday's action against the Cubs, Gomes was 8-for-25 (.320) with two home runs and four RBIs since joining the Nationals, including a two-run shot in the sixth inning of Washington's 3-1 win over Chicago on Tuesday. Not bad considering he was hitting .211 before the trade. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, however, in the 4-2 loss.

When he joined the Nationals, Gomes was platooning with Laynce Nix in left field, but Nix suffered the flu and still has problems with his right Achilles.

In fact, Nix entered Wednesday's game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and grounded out before limping back into the dugout.

Asked if his Achilles was getting better, Nix said, "It's hard to tell. I haven't played in a few days. Hopefully, it will loosen up tomorrow."

Nix said he expects to play in Thursday's series finale against the Cubs.

Rays' Kalas to join Nats broadcast for two games

CHICAGO -- Rays pregame and postgame host and in-game reporter Todd Kalas will work two games with radio play-by-play broadcaster Charlie Slowes on Saturday and Sunday, when the Nationals play the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, according to a baseball source. The games can be heard on 106.7 The Fan.

Kalas is the son of the late, great Harry Kalas and a good friend of Slowes' from their time working together in Tampa. Kalas was planning to be in Philadelphia this weekend anyway, as the Phillies are expected to unveil a statue of Harry.

Slowes most likely will work alone on Friday.

Slowes' partner, Dave Jageler, will work on Nationals games for television's Mid-Atlantic Sports Network this weekend, while Bob Carpenter is on vacation.