Nationals-Padres Preview

The Associated Press

Adam LaRoche seems to enjoy visiting Petco Park.

Bryce Harper just seems to like facing the San Diego Padres.

LaRoche and Harper look to continue their success against the Padres and help the Washington Nationals beat them again on the road Friday night.

LaRoche has a .322 career average at pitcher-friendly Petco Park, going 9 for 23 with five doubles, one homer and four RBIs in the past six visits.

The first baseman connected for a two-run shot in a 6-2 win in the opener of this four-game series Thursday.

LaRoche homered for the second straight day and extended his hitting streak to 13 games, during which he's batting .386 with seven RBIs.

Harper leads the Nationals (22-19) with a .298 average, 11 homers, 22 RBIs and 20 walks on the season. He hit a mammoth solo homer in his return to the lineup after running full-on into the scoreboard in right field during Monday's 6-2 win at Los Angeles.

The 20-year-old slugger has three career hits against the Padres - all home runs.

Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.20 ERA) may not mind some help from his teammates after his dazzling performance was wasted in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Chicago. He carried a perfect game into the sixth, but gave up two singles and left after the seventh only to watch the bullpen give up all of the Cubs runs over the next two frames.

Still, the left-hander wasn't blaming his teammates.

"I feel like we have a great bullpen," said Gonzalez, who was pulled after throwing a season-low 86 pitches.

Washington's relievers have allowed one run and four hits in 8 1-3 innings over four games since Gonzalez's last appearance.

The entire staff seems to thrive in San Diego (18-22), where it has a 1.02 ERA while helping the Nationals win six of the past seven games there.

One of those victories belongs to Gonzalez, who yielded two hits with six strikeouts in six innings of a 3-1 win in his only meeting with the Padres on April 24, 2012.

Thursday's defeat was only the Padres' second loss in the last 11 home games.

Chase Headley is hitting .370 over his last 13 games at Petco after collecting two hits for a fourth consecutive home game Thursday. However, the third baseman is 0 for 3 versus Gonzalez.

Rookie Burch Smith is scheduled to get a second turn in the rotation with Clayton Richard on the disabled list recovering from an intestinal virus.

Smith's major league debut started well Saturday, tossing a perfect first inning with two strikeouts. However, it was all downhill from there as he was pulled before getting an out in the second, getting charged for six runs and five hits - one homer - with two walks while not getting a decision in an 8-7 loss at Tampa Bay.

The 23-year-old right-hander is confident he can show improvement.

"I think the side session went well, and I tried to absorb as much information as I could," Smith told the team's official website. "We discussed the differences between a fastball-dominant pitcher in the minor leagues and one in the big leagues.

"I'm learning when it's a good time to throw a curveball or changeup. I'm going to try and incorporate that in my next start."

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