Nationals-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

It's been more than three months since Stephen Strasburg won a road game.

He'll need to last a lot longer than his most recent attempt.

After being tossed from his most recent outing, Strasburg will try to help the Washington Nationals cap this four-game series with a third straight win over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.

Strasburg (6-9, 2.93 ERA) is 1-5 with a 5.11 ERA in 11 road starts on the season, going 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA over his last six since winning at San Diego on May 16.

The right-hander's latest effort to end that slide ended with no outs in the second inning of Saturday's 8-7 win over Atlanta. He was ejected for throwing consecutive pitches behind Andrelton Simmons' back, and manager Davey Johnson joined him in the clubhouse after arguing the call.

Strasburg's exit came after he allowed two runs with two walks while hitting a batter, and Johnson insisted his ace wasn't intentionally trying to make it two.

"When he went back out in the second inning, I've never seen his command so bad," Johnson said. "He couldn't come close to the first hitter he faced. Then he threw a curve ball that was eight feet outside and then a couple balls that were behind the hitter. It didn't look like he was trying to hit (Simmons).

"He couldn't find the strike zone."

That hasn't been the case in two meetings with the Cubs (54-72). He's limited them to one earned run with 12 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings but lost his only decision after being backed with two total runs.

Ryan Zimmerman specifically let Strasburg down in his last meeting versus Chicago on May 11, when one of the third baseman's two errors resulted in a four-run fifth inning in an 8-2 loss.

Zimmerman, though, is 7 for 16 with three doubles and three RBIs in four meetings since. He had two hits with an RBI in Wednesday's 11-6 win over the Cubs.

"Eleven runs, I think it's Christmas," Johnson said.

Jayson Werth has been on a month-long tear for the Nationals (62-64), hitting .452 in 18 games after connecting for a three-run homer Wednesday.

The Cubs have dropped 15 of their last 18 games at Wrigley Field, and Travis Wood (7-10, 3.13) is 0-3 with a 5.64 ERA in four starts during that stretch.

The left-hander was the Cubs' only representative at last month's All-Star game, and he's 1-4 with a 4.29 ERA in six games since. He struggled again Saturday, surrendering four runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 4-0 home loss to St. Louis.

This will be Wood's first start against the Nationals, but he did make a pinch-running appearance in a 2-1 win in Washington on May 12.

Anthony Rizzo is hoping that he's snapped out of a recent funk after homering twice among his three hits Wednesday. The first baseman, hitting second for the first time in his career as part of an altered Cubs lineup, was batting .115 with one homer and three RBIs over the previous 16 games.

Rizzo is 18 for 46 (.391) with five home runs in 13 career games against the Nationals. He's 2 for 3 off Strasburg.

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