The Washington Nationals are playing their best baseball since 2009, and they'll have the right pitcher on the mound to try and keep their winning streak intact.
The St. Louis Cardinals, meanwhile, are mired in their worst stretch since 2008, but they're about to get a key figure back in the lineup.Behind a resurgent John Lannan, the Nationals go for their sixth consecutive victory and a sweep of the slumping St. Louis Cardinals, who are expected to have slugger Matt Holliday back Thursday night.After a 10-0 rout Wednesday, Washington (32-36) is on its longest run since a seven-game winning streak to close the 2009 season. Michael Morse homered twice and Danny Espinosa and Jayson Werth also went deep to back Livan Hernandez, who tossed a three-hitter with six strikeouts."Everybody is working hard every day to win some games and now we've got five in a row. Let's see what happens," Hernandez said.Playing third base instead of his customary first base, Albert Pujols made two errors that led to led to two unearned runs and extended the Cardinals' skid to five -- their longest since a seven-game slide from Sept. 10-17, 2008.Holliday's return after missing 13 games with a quadriceps injury should help the Cardinals, who averaged 4.2 runs and 7.7 hits while going 5-8."He makes our lineup better and deeper," manager Tony La Russa said.In 44 games, Holliday is hitting .342 with six homers and 31 RBIs, but he comes back riding a 3 for 28 (.107) slump.Holliday is 4 for 14 with four walks against Lannan (4-5, 3.60 ERA), who has been Washington's ace lately.In his last four starts, the left-hander is 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA. He's allowed three runs -- two coming on solo homers -- and 16 hits in 26 1/3 innings. Lannan had been 2-5 with a 5.03 ERA in 10 games prior to his turnaround.One of those wins came against the Cardinals on April 20, when he surrendered two runs and seven hits in five innings of the Nationals' 8-6 victory.Lannan credits maturity for his improved pitching."I think, over time, you change, you adapt and you learn more every day. I've grown up. A lot of things that used to get to me, don't any more. I handle myself on the mound a little better. It's just growing up," he told the Nationals' official website.One player who's performed well against Lannan is Lance Berkman, who's gone 7 for 15 with two homers and four RBIs. However, he's 1 for 6 in this series, and 2 for 17 during the Cardinals' losing streak.St. Louis (38-31), which hasn't been swept in Washington since Aug. 3-5, 2007, will go with Kyle Lohse (7-3, 2.67).The right-hander had his best game this season against the Nationals, firing a career-best two-hitter with two walks and six strikeouts in a 5-0 win April 21.Lohse hadn't lost in five starts before lasting a season-low five innings Friday in Milwaukee. He surrendered four runs, five hits and three walks as the Cardinals fell 8-0.Lohse hasn't lost back-to-back games this year, and is 1-1 with an 8.10 ERA in two starts at Nationals Park.