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Nationals Go For Two In A Row Against Royals

(Sports Network) - The Washington Nationals will try to put together their first winning streak in two weeks when they resume a three-game interleague series tonight with the Kansas City Royals.

Cristian Guzman helped Washington snap a six-game slide with a solo homer in the sixth inning of last night's 2-1 win in the series opener at Nationals Park. It was the Nats' second triumph in 10 tries and they will try to win back-to-back games for the first time since ripping off three victories in a row from June 8-10. Mike Morse also homered in the win.

"It feels real good," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said of getting the victory. "It's been a little grind here, lately, as you all know. It's been tough to win a ballgame."

Starting pitcher Livan Hernandez is now 6-4 on the season and held the Royals to one run over seven innings. He allowed eight hits, walked one and struck out five. Tyler Clippard tossed a scoreless eighth inning and Matt Capps allowed two hits in the ninth, but struck out three for his major league- leading 21st save of the season.

The Nationals will rest their hopes on rookie starter Luis Atilano in Tuesday's second installment of this series. Atilano has lost three straight starts and is 2-4 with a 5.50 ERA in his last seven outings.

Atilano last pitched in Thursday's 8-3 loss at Detroit and gave up five runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings. He fell to 5-4 in 11 starts this season to go along with a 4.77 earned run average. The right-hander, who is 1-2 in four home starts, will face the Royals for the first time.

Kansas City has dropped the first four contests of a six-game road trip and played well enough to win last night. A few bad pitches by starter Bruce Chen spoiled the chance of erasing the memories of a weekend sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves, as the lefty allowed three hits, including both homers, in six innings. He also struck out three and walked four batters.

"Both of them I was behind the count, 1-0 and 3-1. I threw a cutter to Guzman and a fastball to Morse, and they hit it a long ways," Chen said. "But I was trying to throw a strike, keep the ball down."

Scott Podsednik finished 4-for-4 and Mike Aviles had three hits, while Jason Kendall drove in the lone run in defeat.

Anthony Lerew is slated to make his second start of the season tonight for the Royals and was called up from Triple-A Omaha last week. The move was made after the team placed Luke Hochevar on the disabled list with a strained right elbow.

In a 5-2 win over Houston on Thursday, Lerew did not factor in the outcome and held the Astros to a pair of runs in six innings with seven strikeouts. It was his sixth career start.

The right-hander has never squared off with Washington.

Kansas City and Washington are meeting for the first time since the 2004 campaign, when the Nationals were located in Montreal. The Expos/Nationals have won six of the seven matchups between the teams, including all three contests at Olympic Stadium back in 2002.

KC is 112-130 in interleague action, while the Nationals are 116-126.