WASHINGTON -- As the losses piled up earlier this season, the Nationals claimed that the attitude in the clubhouse had not changed. Ryan Zimmerman said that even approach remains now, even though the team has won six straight games and 17 of its past 22.
"I think the guys in here, we've been the same all year," Zimmerman said. "I think that's one of the strengths of this team. It's been a difficult year, a frustrating year, but we've all kind of stuck together. At times, it might not have seemed like it, but we've been trying to win every game just like we have been the last week, and it just hasn't worked out for us."
The Nationals' recent road trip, which ended Thursday afternoon, was among the most successful trips in club history. With a four-game sweep of the Mets and series wins over the Marlins and Phillies, the Nationals went 8-2 . They finished 8-2 and 6-1 in two separate trips last season.
"The guys seem to be putting on the pennant drive or the salary drive or whatever you want to call it," manager Davey Johnson said. "It's fun."
The Nationals entered Friday's series opener against the Phillies with a 5 1/2-game deficit in the National League Wild Card chase behind the Reds.
"Everyone wants to make the playoffs, and in past years, the team that kind of sneaks in and is hot going into it has had some success," Zimmerman said. "But we've got a long ways to go. We've got to come out here and keep taking care of business, and hopefully one of those teams will slip up and we can sneak in."
Span's streak hits 24 with sixth-inning single
WASHINGTON -- With a flare to left field in the sixth inning, Nationals center fielder Denard Span extended his career-best hitting streak to 24 games Friday night. Span owns the longest active hitting streak in the Major Leagues.
"He's been great," manager Davey Johnson said. "It's not only he's had a hitting streak, but his on-base percentage has been off the charts. He was down around, before he started, I think he was down around .300, .306, or something like that. Now, he's up over .330, I think, which is important, him getting on, setting the table."
Span's on-base percentage following Friday's 6-1 win over the Phillies is .329.
After his first three at-bats, Span's streak looked to be in danger of ending. He hit a soft ground ball to the pitcher in his first appearance before popping out to the third baseman in the second. In the fifth, he hit a hard liner to third base, but was thrown out by half a step at first.
But in the sixth, Span kept the streak alive.
"We knew he'd have one more AB," Bryce Harper said, "and what an incredible opportunity for him to do that and get a knock in that situation against [Phillies reliever] Zach Miner. That's a clutch knock and showed what he can do on a daily basis. He's swinging well right now."
Before Friday, Span was hitting .385 during the hitting streak with two doubles, two triples, two homers, seven RBIs and 16 runs scored. His 24-game run is the second-longest in the Majors this season next to Colorado's Michael Cuddyer, who collected a hit in 27 straight games. Span also holds the second-longest hitting streak in Nationals' history. Ryan Zimmerman hit safely in 30 straight games in 2009.
Harper shows off cannon right arm with pair of assists
WASHINGTON -- Although he is primarily known for his bat, Bryce Harper also owns a cannon of a right arm.
The 20-year-old Nationals left fielder recorded two outfield assists Friday night against the Phillies, one from foul territory and another from the warning track. He now has 12 outfield assists this season, tied for second-most in the National League, despite missing a lot of time due to injuries.
"I like throwing guys out. I get fired up," Harper said. "It doesn't happen very often. Homers don't happen very often, but I get a little adrenaline rush when I throw guys out."
Harper's first assist came in the fifth inning, when Freddy Galvis hit a line drive down the left-field line. Harper raced to collect the ball and threw the ball to second baseman Steve Lombardozzi on one hop. Galvis was initially safe, but his momentum carried him off the bag and Lombardozzi applied the tag for the out.
Then, in the sixth, Harper fielded a Carlos Ruiz shot off the wall in left. He threw another laser to Lombardozzi just in time, robbing the Phillies' catcher of what appeared to be an easy double.
"As soon as the ball is hit, I'm kind of looking back and forth to check the runner," Lombardozzi said. "You never know with his arm. You've always got a chance. That was pretty impressive."
Nats celebrate Hispanic heritage early
WASHINGTON -- Hispanic Heritage month begins Sunday, but with their lengthy 10-game road trip and limited number of home games this month, the Nationals celebrated the Hispanic community a few weeks early.
Before their game against the Marlins on Aug. 28, several Nationals players lined up along the first-base line behind flags of their respective home countries. When members of the starting lineup jogged onto the field, they met children from Centro Nia, a multicultural learning community focused on bilingual education.
The game, which the Nationals won, 4-3, also featured Hispanic-themed entertainment and video tributes to honor Hispanic athletes for their contributions to baseball.
Members of the Hispanic community will also be honored in pregame ceremonies on Roberto Clemente Day on Tuesday.
• Outfielder Billy Burns was named the Nationals Minor League Player of the Year on Friday, while right-hander Taylor Jordan was named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Second baseman Tony Renda received the inaugural Bob Boone Award in recognition of his professionalism and leadership.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.