Marlins-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

Stephen Strasburg's season has come down to two more starts.

The star right-hander makes what is expected to be his last start at Nationals Park this year when Washington tries for a season-high sixth straight home victory Friday night against the Miami Marlins.

All season, the Nationals organization said it would limit the 24-year-old's innings two years after he underwent Tommy John surgery. After Strasburg (15-6, 2.94 ERA) allowed two hits and struck out nine in six innings of a 4-3 win over St. Louis on Sunday - raising his innings total to 156 1-3 over 27 starts - manager Davey Johnson announced the All-Star would make two more starts.

Strasburg's last appearance of 2012 is likely to come at New York on Wednesday for the NL-leading Nationals (85-52).

"I'm not sure any of us understand,'' Johnson said. "But it's the right thing to do.

"I don't look at this as the only chance you're going to get to be in the postseason, the World Series. This team wasn't just piecemealed together for one year. It was built to last, and we're trying to make sure it lasts."

Strasburg, who ranks among the major league leaders with 195 strikeouts, met with Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo to talk about the decision.

"It's no secret that Stras is an intense competitor," Johnson said. "It's probably eating him up more than anybody involved in this whole thing because he wants to be here and helping his teammates."

At least publicly, Strasburg only seems concerned with the matter at hand.

"I'm just focused on the next start,'' he said.

Strasburg had a streak of 27 consecutive scoreless innings over five starts against the Marlins (61-77) before he was tagged for seven runs - five earned - in five innings of a 9-0 loss at Miami on Aug. 28.

Strasburg, who called that outing a "learning experience," faces a Marlins club that has won twice in eight games since that victory. One of those came Thursday, 6-2 over Milwaukee to conclude a 3-6 homestand.

Miami's Jose Reyes is 4 for 12 with two doubles against Strasburg, and batting .423 (11 for 26) with five doubles in six games at Washington this season. The Marlins, however, have lost five of those contests.

Washington improved to 7-1 on its 11-game homestand by concluding a four-game sweep of the lowly Chicago Cubs with a 9-1 victory Thursday. Kurt Suzuki hit a three-run homer and Adam LaRoche added his 29th as the Nationals won for the eight time in nine games overall.

Batting .400 (14 for 35) with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games, Bryce Harper homered twice off Miami starter Jacob Turner (1-3, 7.33) in Washington's 8-4 win Aug. 29.

The rookie right-hander allowed five runs in five innings of that contest.

"I threw a couple of pitches over really good and got really good results, and also threw a couple of pitches that were really bad and were bad results," Turner said. "I just have to be more consistent.''

LaRoche, who had a hit in two at-bats versus Turner, is 11 for 21 (.524) with six homers and 11 RBIs in his last six games overall. He's batted .391 (9 for 23) with three home runs and seven RBIs in his last six versus Miami.

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