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Nationals start three-game set with Dodgers... Test? What test?

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After this week's three-game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers, it's all NL East opponents for the Washington Nationals for the remainder of the season, but they've got a tough test over the next three days in L.A. starting with Roberto Hernandez tonight.

Stephen Dunn

The Washington Nationals' nine-game, three-city road trip started with three straight losses to the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park. Disappointing as the results were in that series, Nats' skipper Matt Williams was already moving forward as soon as the final out was recorded last Wednesday.

"Win, lose, good, bad or indifferent, today is over with and there's nothing we can do about it now other than look forward to the next one." -Matt Williams after dropping three straight to the Phillies

"It's the same approach that we'll always take," the first-year skipper said, repeating a mantra he's used all season in one form or another. "Win, lose, good, bad or indifferent, today is over with and there's nothing we can do about it now other than look forward to the next one. So, we've got a long flight and off day, the guys can go get some rest and we'll see if we can go get the Mariners on Friday."

Seattle was (72-60) at the start of the series in Safeco Field, having won six of their last ten as they battle for a Wild Card spot in the American League. After the weekend series in Washington state, there was a three-game series with the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

Before the Nationals left Philadelphia, Williams was asked if he was looking forward to the test of facing two tough teams?

"We don't think that way," he said. "We never, ever think that way. We know that if we do things correctly, then we have a chance to beat the other team on any given night. And that's how we approach it every day, regardless of if we have a winning streak or if we've lost three in a row, doesn't matter, it's the same approach."

The Nationals took two of three from the Mariners, dropping the series finale on Sunday, leaving them 19 games over .500 on the year and a game over .500 on the road this season.

"The Dodgers are tough. We're going to run into two guys down there that are pretty unbelievable also, so we'll see where we're at down there." -Bryce Harper after taking two of three from the Mariners

"I think as a team we played great," Bryce Harper told reporters after the 5-3 loss to the Mariners. "Had some great pitching. [Stephen Strasburg] threw unbelievable yesterday. Being able to come in here and win two games against a great team in Seattle, it's a lot of fun. So, hopefully we can take this down to LA as a good thing. The Dodgers are tough. We're going to run into two guys down there that are pretty unbelievable also, so we'll see where we're at down there and go from there."

The two tough pitchers the Nationals know they will face are Roberto Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw.

Hernandez, acquired from the Phillies for a PTBNL in an August 7th trade, was (2-0) against the Nationals while with Philadelphia this season, with just one unearned scoring while he was on the mound in 15 ⅓ IP, over which he held Nats' hitters to a .170/.228/.170 line.

Kershaw, in his first start off the DL in in May, threw seven scoreless against the Nationals when the Dodgers visited the nation's capital earlier this season. In eight second-half starts, the left-hander is (5-1) with LA 7-1 in his outings, over which he's put up a 1.66 ERA and a .201/.238/.294 line against in 65 IP.

The Nationals counter with Gio Gonzalez in the series opener and Doug Fister in Game 2 of 3.

The Dodgers are 6-4 in their last ten games. The Nationals are 5-5 in their last ten.

As big a series at it is, Harper shared his manager's measured approach when asked if he was looking forward to another tough test.

"I think we're a great team," the 21-year-old outfielder told reporters.

"Even if we come out of there and don't do so well, it's okay. Hopefully we go down there and win ballgames, of course you want to do that, and win the series, but we're a great team, we know where we're at and we know where we need to be."

The series with the Dodgers is the Nationals' last against an opponent from outside the NL East.

After the three-game set Los Angeles, it's divisional rivals the rest of the way, including six games with the Atlanta Braves, who are currently 6.0 games back in the division.