Padres look to bounce back against Nationals Wed. night

The Washington Nationals don't play the New York Mets for a couple of weeks, but they're already planning ahead for their final two series versus the NL East leaders.

It won't make a difference, though, unless they take care of current business.

After ace Max Scherzer's scheduled start against the San Diego Padres was bumped, Gio Gonzalez will try to lead the Nationals to their fourth straight win Wednesday night.

Washington (63-61) began preparing for a pair of September series against the Mets on Tuesday, announcing that Scherzer would be pushed back to Saturday. The move allows the Nationals to line up Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg for both sets.

Of course, none of that will matter if they can't remain close in the meantime. Washington remains 5 1/2 games back of New York after an 8-3 win Tuesday in the opener of this three-game home series.

Ryan Zimmerman hit a sixth-inning grand slam, Wilson Ramos added a two-run shot and the hot-hitting Nationals won their third in a row for the first time since July 12-17.

"It's too early to be scoreboard watching," Scherzer insisted. "It's still August."

Scherzer will give way to Gonzalez (9-6, 3.98 ERA), who allowed 11 runs and 13 hits in 7 2-3 innings while losing his last two starts. He was 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA in his previous six at home before giving up five runs over five in Friday's 10-3 loss to Milwaukee.

Gonzalez is 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA in three starts against the Padres, but hasn't faced them since July 2013. Derek Norris has two homers and a walk in three plate appearances against him, while Matt Kemp is 2 for 5 with a homer and Justin Upton 5 for 16 with three.

Kemp went 0 for 3 Tuesday to snap a 15-game hitting streak. Jedd Gyorko was a bright spot with two homers as San Diego (61-64) dropped its second straight after a 9-2 stretch.

Tyson Ross (8-9, 3.32), whose younger brother Joe is now scheduled to start for the Nationals on Thursday, has allowed three earned runs or less in each of his last 12 starts while going 5-2 with a 2.66 ERA.

"It's going to be exciting. I know my parents are going to be excited about it," Tyson Ross told MLB's official website. "How often do you get to see both your boys throw on back-to-back nights?"

Ross gave up one run over six innings last Wednesday but didn't factor into the decision of a 3-2 home win over Atlanta.

The right-hander has been better on the road, going 4-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his last seven starts. He's 1-1 with a 6.10 ERA in two career starts against Washington, though he limited the Nats to two runs over five innings in an 8-3 home win May 14.

Bryce Harper is 2 for 3 with a home run when facing Ross, while Anthony Rendon is 2 for 5 with a homer. Ian Desmond, Yunel Escobar and Zimmerman are a combined 3 for 20.

The Nationals have hit .274 with 10 home runs and averaged 6.7 runs while winning five of seven. They've also won 11 of 15 meetings with San Diego while scoring 6.3 per game.

Washington drew seven more walks Tuesday, giving the club 45 free passes in its last seven. Ross has the second-highest walks-per-nine-innings ratio in the majors at 4.15.

"This lineup we have right now, this is what we wanted all year long," Harper said. "If we play like this, I think we'll be just fine."