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Reds-Nationals Preview

AP - Sports

While the Washington Nationals busted out of their slump, the Cincinnati Reds' struggles at the plate continue.

Both teams, however, could have trouble offensively Friday night with the Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann squaring off against the Reds' Homer Bailey in the nation's capital.

After managing four runs during a four-game losing streak, Washington beat Cincinnati 8-1 on Thursday as Denard Span and Danny Espinosa each drove in three runs.

Espinosa and Bryce Harper both homered for the Nationals (11-11), who finished with five extra-base hits - equaling the number they had during the skid. They had 12 hits overall Thursday after batting .169 in the previous six games.

"This is definitely more of what I expect from our team than the last three games," said Espinosa, who had been in a 2-for-18 slump and entered the game batting .155.

All that offense was more than enough for Gio Gonzalez, who went eight innings and allowed one hit - a fourth-inning homer to Joey Votto.

"It's been a long time since we've been shaking hands," said manager Davey Johnson, whose team also snapped a six-game home losing streak. "That's more like what we are - good pitching and timely hitting."

Washington could be up against some strong pitching in a matchup with Bailey (1-1, 3.24 ERA), whose only win this year came against the Nationals. In his season debut April 5, the right-hander allowed two hits over six innings in a 15-0 win.

Other than being knocked around by St. Louis in his second start, Bailey is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his other three outings. He has 18 strikeouts over his last 14 innings, yielding two runs.

Zimmermann's turn in the rotation did not come up in these teams' series earlier this month, and Cincinnati (13-10) probably didn't mind.

Zimmermann (3-1, 2.67) was sharp in his two starts against the Reds last season, going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA. He has a 0.71 ERA in two career home starts versus Cincinnati.

After throwing 103 pitches in a six-hitter against Miami on April 15, Zimmermann labored against the New York Mets on Sunday, needing 96 pitches to go five in a 2-0 loss. He exited after giving up two runs, two hits and three walks - the same number he issued through his first three starts. He threw a season-high 36 balls.

"I fell behind guys, didn't throw a lot of first-pitch strikes," the righty said. "Without first-pitch strikes, you have to work a little harder."

Zimmermann has limited Jay Bruce to one hit in 11 at-bats, but Votto is 4 for 8 with a homer.

The Reds have been scuffling at the plate, managing four total runs in dropping two of three. They had averaged 5.8 runs in winning seven of their previous eight.

Cleanup hitter Brandon Phillips is hitless in 10 at-bats in the last three games while Bruce is 1 for 10 with five strikeouts.

Shin-Soo Choo was 0 for 3 on Friday but walked in the ninth inning and has reached base safely in his first 22 games this season. The leadoff hitter has scored 18 times and leads the majors with a .523 on-base percentage.

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