The Nationals are playing their best baseball as the season winds down.
Washington has won six straight games and eight of its past nine, and it will try to keep its momentum going this weekend against division rival Philadelphia. Ross Ohlendorf will start Friday's series opener in place of late-scratch Stephen Strasburg, and he'll be matched up against veteran right-hander Kyle Kendrick for the Phillies.
Strasburg, famously shut down early last season, would have set a career high with his 29th start. No reason was given as to why he was replaced three hours before game time. The 25-year-old spent two weeks on the disabled list in June with a back ailment, but he's been durable and consistent. Strasburg has a 2-2 record and a 2.92 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break.
The 31-year-old Ohlendorf, with his fourth big league team, has pitched in 14 big league games, five of them starts, this season. His most recent start was on Sept. 1 against the Mets. He gave up four runs on nine hits in five innings.
Kendrick, 28 years old, has made 29 starts this season and has allowed a league-high 199 hits. He's been hit hard since the break, yielding a 2-6 record and a 6.45 ERA in his past 10 outings. Kendrick, surprisingly, has allowed just four home runs in that span after allowing 12 in 19 first-half starts.
The Nationals are 5 1/2 games behind Cincinnati for the National League's second Wild Card slot, and they'll have home series against Atlanta and Miami after playing host to the Phillies. Washington will close out its season with a pair of road series against the Cardinals and the D-backs.
The Phillies have a 14-11 record under interim manager Ryne Sandberg, who took over for Charlie Manuel on August 16. Philadelphia has won five of its past six games -- including a series sweep over Atlanta -- but lost a series to Washington earlier this month.
Phillies: Rollins close to elite company
• While it hasn't been a season to remember for Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies shortstop is still close to joining some elite company.
Rollins needs one more home run for 200 in his career, which would make him one of just 10 players in baseball history with 200 home runs and 400 stolen bases. The others are Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds, Craig Biggio, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan, Johnny Damon, Roberto Alomar, Marquis Grissom and Bobby Bonds.
"Especially for an up-the-middle guy, that's a plus with his bat and the power," Sandberg said. "Also shows the speed he's got. But you know, that's his package. He has hidden pop in there and the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Normally happens when he's not trying to do it. His speed is his speed.
"It's a rare combination. It's bringing very good offense to the shortstop position, which really wasn't the case 20, 25 years ago. Just had primarily good glove guys. Maybe it was back 30 years ago when guys up the middle were good glove guys. He's an offensive player and an excellent baserunner."
Nationals: Flash in the Span
Denard Span has been a huge part of Washington's late-season resurgence. Span doubled in Thursday's victory to push his hitting streak to a career-best 23 games. The outfielder is batting .385 (37-for-96) with four doubles, two triples and 16 runs scored over the life of his streak.
Span's season average has gone from .258 to .281 as a result of his streak, and he's right around his career norms in a few categories. Span, in his first season with the Nationals, was a .284 career hitter in five seasons with the Twins, and he's slugging .385 compared to a .388 career mark.
• The Nationals will hold a ceremony to honor the victims and first responders of Sept. 11, 2001, on Friday.
• Washington is 25-13 since Aug. 1. Only the Dodgers (28-11) have played to a better record over that span.
• Rollins and Chase Utley have started 1,057 games as a double-play combination, which is the most among active combos in baseball.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.