The Phillies have received a pair of strong pitching performances through the first two games of this three-game series against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.
A.J. Burnett fanned 12 on Monday and Cole Hamels allowed three runs in seven innings while striking out five on Tuesday to help the Phillies to their first series win within the division since June. On Wednesday, Philadelphia will go for a sweep over first-place Washington, which had previously won nine of 10.
Right-hander Kyle Kendrick is hoping to overcome his problems with the first inning. In his last start against the Cardinals on Friday, he allowed three more runs in the opening frame that hiked up his first-inning ERA to 9.69 (28 earned runs in 26 innings). Opponents are hitting .358 against him in the first inning.
"It's not in my head at all," Kendrick said. "I don't know. It's one of those things this year. It will be gone next year I think."
Nationals right-hander Doug Fister will face the Phillies almost a week after he announced that he had skin cancer removed from his neck. On Tuesday, Fister said he felt fine and nothing has changed regarding how he goes about his business.
"I had a little procedure, nothing is serious," Fister said.
Fister said he knew the cancer had to be removed from his neck for about a month. He wasn't scared. It runs in his family and he assumed he had to deal with it at some point in his life.
"It was something that I needed to address," he said.
Fister announced that he had the procedure after Friday's 10-3 loss to the Giants, saying it had nothing to do with his outing, in which he allowed four runs in six innings. In fact, in that same game, Fister singled to center field and tried to break up a double play in the third inning.
"I think I did well, but there are things I needed to work on. I'll continue to get better and that's a prime example of it," Fister said. "I have to fine-tune myself and be on top of my game all the time. ... I want to be able to locate the fastball and make sure it's down."
Nationals: No plans to shut down Roark
The Nationals plan to allow Tanner Roark to continue pitching, despite the fact that he moved further past his previous high for innings in a single season.
In 2013, he threw 159 1/3 innings between Triple-A and the Majors, and his six-inning outing on Monday gave him 166 2/3 innings this season with the Nationals. He has shown no signs of slowing down, however, lasting at least six innings in 20 of his 26 starts and throwing seven or more in 12 outings.
"We are in the business of winning games and we're going to continue to give him the ball and have him pitch for us because he's been really, really good," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "But we have to keep on eye where he gets to and how many innings he gets to."
Phillies: Papelbon is the closer
Even if Ken Giles is the Phillies' closer in waiting, his shot at the ninth inning will not come as long as Jonathan Papelbon is on the roster, according to manager Ryne Sandberg.
"Papelbon is our closer," Sandberg said. "I don't think it would be a problem; I have confidence in Kenny. But we haven't even talked about that."
Giles, 23, has a 1.38 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings, but even if Papelbon was not available due to his workload, it is not a lock that Giles would pitch the ninth.
"We have a couple choices," Sandberg said. "It would depend on the scenario.
• The Phillies will honor the Taney Dragons for their historic run in the Little League World Series on Wednesday.
Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.