Rays-Nationals Preview

AP - Sports

The NL East-leading Washington Nationals haven't won in a week, and that was also the last time they gave the ball to Stephen Strasburg.

Wins have become commonplace for the star right-hander.

Strasburg looks to extend the longest winning streak of his career and help the Nationals end a four-game slide Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Washington (38-27) has lost four in a row since Strasburg (8-1, 2.45 ERA) yielded two runs and five hits with eight strikeouts in six innings of a 6-2 victory at Toronto last Wednesday. That was the Nationals' sixth straight win but the rotation has a 5.06 ERA in four contests since, including a 5-4 defeat to the Rays (38-29) Tuesday in the opener of this three-game set.

Strasburg will try to end that slide and keep Washington from matching its season-high five-game losing streak from April 26-May 1.

The right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA in his last five starts, striking out 44 and walking eight in 29 innings. Included in that stretch is a pair of home victories during which he has allowed one earned run in 12 innings while fanning 17.

The only thing that has slowed Strasburg recently has been a "slight cut" after a nail-trimming mishap forced him to exit last Wednesday's victory early.

"It was nothing major," said Strasburg, who is expected to be limited to 165 innings this season. "I definitely don't think it affected the way the ball was coming out or anything. I wanted to go out there again."

Washington's offense also has played a role in the team's skid. The Nationals have hit .204 - .154 with runners in scoring position - and scored 10 runs over the past four games.

The team's other young phenom, 19-year-old Bryce Harper has cooled significantly. The right fielder is 2 for 14 with six strikeouts in the last three games after hitting .440 with two homers and five RBIs in the previous seven.

The Rays have won a season-best five straight on the road, averaging 6.8 runs in those games.

First baseman Carlos Pena had his third consecutive two-hit game Tuesday and homered for the first time this month. He's batting .333 (13 for 39) with five home runs and eight RBIs in 11 career games against the Nationals.

With Jeremy Hellickson going on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue, Chris Archer is expected to make his major league debut for Tampa Bay.

Archer, 23, was acquired by the Rays as part of an eight-player deal that sent starter Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs in January 2011.

The right-hander was 4-8 with a 4.81 ERA with 90 strikeouts over 76 2-3 innings in 14 starts for Triple-A Durham this season.

Rays reliever Joel Peralta was ejected from the opener of this series in the eighth inning after umpires found a "significant amount of pine tar" on his glove, according to crew chief Tim Tschida.

"That's a glove that I use for batting practice every day," Peralta said. "I'm every day playing catch with it, it's hot here - that's all I'm going to say about it."

Rays manager Joe Maddon called Nationals counterpart Davey Johnson "cowardly" since Peralta pitched for the Nationals in 2010, and may have used that familiarity to single him out.

"Insider trading, man. It's bush," Maddon said. "It's bogus. That's way too easy, right there."

View Comments