On a night in which their offense was held in check, the Arizona Diamondbacks found another way to win as they moved back into first-place in the National League West with their second straight victory over the Washington Nationals.

Ian Kennedy Arizona Diamondbacks MLBVeteran lefthander Joe Saunders allowed just two hits over seven innings as the Snakes shut out the Nationals for the second straight game 2-0. Thanks to the Rockies win over the Giants, The D-Backs are back in first-place in the National League West, a half-game in front of SF.

Now manager Kirk Gibson’s club will try to extend the division lead when they send Ian Kennedy to the hill against Jason Marquis in series finale. Game time is set for 4:10 PM ET at Chase Field with the Snakes in the favored role and the total at 9.

In Saturday’s victory, the Diamondbacks managed just four hits but it was enough to secure their eighth win in 10 games and 18th in their last 22 outings. Arizona is now 33-26 overall including a home mark of 20-12 and is threatening to turn the race in the West into a two-team affair along with the Giants.

Sunday Showdown

Ian Kennedy will take the ball for Arizona while veteran Jason Marquis toes the rubber for Washington and there are some striking similarities between the starters. Both have identical 6-2 records although Kennedy’s 3.16 ERA is nearly one run lower than Marquis’ (4.14). The Diamondbacks are 8-4 in Kennedy’s 12 starts while the Nats are 8-3 back of Marquis.

Kennedy has been a much better pitcher on the road this season (3-0, 1.62) compared to home (3-2, 4.27) but he’s kept his team in every game regardless of where he’s pitched. In his last outing on May 31 he lost to the Marlins 5-2 but prior to that he had won five straight. He’ll be making his third career appearance against the Nationals and will be out to improve on a 1-1 record, a 4.94 ERA and .308 opposition batting average.

Marquis, now in his first full season in D.C. has helped fill the void in caused by the arm injury to Stephen Strasburg. He’s worked 69 innings an average of nearly seven innings per start and has been exactly what the Nationals have needed. The 11-year veteran doesn’t blow away hitters like he did early in his career (38 K’s) but he’s a workhorse. The one thing Marquis hasn’t been is effective against Arizona going 2-7 with an ERA 4.48. He’s surrendered 25 gopher balls in 78 1/3 innings with Chris Young hitting three homers against him.

Do the math

Subtract Washington’s 10-run outburst against Philadelphia and what’s left is a team that has scored 23 runs in nine games. For every big-dollar free-agent who isn’t producing (Jayson Werth, .254) there’s the surprise from out of nowhere like shortstop Danny Espinoza who has hit 10 home runs and driven in 33 runs. Overall the Nationals are next-to-last in the National League in hitting (.231) and 14th in runs scored (230) and 8th in the NL in homeruns (50). The Nationals have now been shutout in back-to-back games for the second time this season with the Mets also pulling the trick in May.

Sneaky Snakes

The Diamondbacks have slithered their way into the top spot in the National League earnings with a total of $1099 units. They’ve earned +444 on the run line thanks to a 34-25 record and they’ve been money in the bank for totals players with a 32-25 record to the ‘under’.

MLB odds boards currently list the Diamondbacks as -168 favorites, a number which has fallen from the -180 they opened with at many baseball betting outlets. Continue to watch these lines as they are subject to change again.

Washington is 8th across board in NL earnings but every category has produced red ink. A money making possibility for the Nationals would be to play them to the ‘over’ where they’re 19-12-1 on the road in 2011.

Harvey’s Take: Arizona is as hot as the desert and the 18-4 streak they’re on is not a mirage. I’ll wait for the number to drop a bit then I’ll pounce on Gibby’s team even with a $1.50 price tag.