Nationals-Padres Preview

The Associated Press

Bryce Harper is still feeling the effects of running into an outfield wall earlier this week.

The Washington Nationals are hoping he's healthy enough to return to the lineup Sunday, when they attempt to re-establish their success against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.

Harper ran full-speed into the outfield wall while chasing a fly ball in Monday's 6-2 road win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. A number of injuries forced the 20-year-old superstar to sit out one game while being used a pinch-hitter for the next.

He seemed to be just fine homering on one of his two hits while Washington (23-20) won the first two of this four-game series in San Diego (19-23).

The collision with the wall, however, is still being felt. Knee soreness put Harper back on the bench Saturday, and the Nationals managed just four singles in a 2-1 loss to the Padres.

"Everything else feels pretty good," Harper told the team's official website. "The knee was barking. It's pretty swollen. I'm not going to take a chance on it. I'll get some treatment on it and see if I can go (Sunday)."

Harper leads the Nationals with 11 homers and 22 RBIs, so it may not be surprising they're 1-5 without him.

Getting him back Sunday could provide a spark since he's three of his four hits in four career meetings with the Padres are homers.

Dan Haren (4-4, 4.76) may not mind seeing Harper back after he sat out the right-hander's most recent start after slamming into the wall. Haren could've used some offensive help as he allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings of a 2-0 defeat at Los Angeles.

He had won each of his three previous starts behind a 3.15 ERA.

Haren hasn't benefited much over his last two games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park, losing both as a member of the Los Angeles Angels while surrendering nine runs despite 13 strikeouts in 11 2-3 innings.

Despite Friday's loss, the Nationals have won eight of the past 11 meetings with the Padres, including seven of nine at Petco.

Adam LaRoche also thrives there, hitting .328 with 10 homers and 28 RBIs in 35 visits. He's 4 for 10 with three homers and six RBIs in this series, while extending his overall hitting streak to 15 games, during which he's batting .392.

San Diego is looking for back-to-back wins over Washington for the first time since a three-game winning streak from May 28-June 9, 2011.

Giving the ball to Andrew Cashner (2-2, 2.84) could help.

The right-hander tossed a gem May 6, yielding four hits in a career-high 7 1-3 innings of a 5-0 win over Miami. He followed that up by going 7 1-3 innings again Tuesday, giving up two runs - one earned - while not getting a decision in a 3-2 win at Baltimore.

Cashner is becoming a reliable starter after being used almost exclusively out of the bullpen for three-plus seasons. He thinks taking a little off his fastball is helping him with the adjustment and leading to longer outings.

"I think a big thing for me this year is not trying to air it out," he told the team's official website. "I'm not trying to throw 100 mph."

Cashner is 1-0 while yielding two hits with six strikeouts in 5 2-3 innings over five relief appearances versus Washington. He also fanned Harper in their only matchup, while LaRoche is 1 for 2 and the only current National to get a hit off him.

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