Nationals-Phillies Preview

The Associated Press

While Stephen Strasburg has encountered a few bumps in the early going, he was at his best in his last start.

The right-hander was nearly untouchable against the Philadelphia Phillies last season.

Strasburg takes the mound opposite Cliff Lee as the Washington Nationals open a three-game series at Philadelphia on Friday night.

Strasburg (2-2, 4.24 ERA) has posted mixed results over his first six starts, allowing at least four runs in half of those outings and a combined three in the others. He's struck out 53 in 34 innings, but opponents are hitting .269 against him after he held batters to a .216 average in his first four seasons.

Strasburg had everything working, though, in last Friday's 11-1 win over San Diego. He allowed seven hits - all singles - and struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings.

"I'm just trying to make quality pitches and not necessarily be overaggressive, but throwing the heater down the middle and challenge them," he said.

Strasburg now turns his attention to the Phillies, whom he baffled in three outings last year. Strasburg went 2-0 while allowing one earned run and 11 hits with 29 strikeouts over 23 innings.

"He always seems to throw that pitch pretty good against us," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said of Strasburg's changeup.

Rollins is 2 for 18 with seven strikeouts against Strasburg, and Chase Utley is 1 for 9.

Lee (3-2, 3.29) gets the ball after Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez were skipped with the Phillies (13-13) having three days off this week. Lee didn't receive a decision after allowing five runs - three earned - over six innings in Saturday's 6-5 win at Arizona.

"They were getting hits. I was missing on the plate a little bit, but they got their fair share of hits on decent pitches, too. Those things happen," he said.

Lee will try to get back on track at home, where he is 0-2 despite a 2.40 ERA. The left-hander has struck out 21 over 15 innings in those outings while receiving a combined two runs of support.

Lee is 1-2 with a 4.00 ERA in his last four matchups against the Nationals (16-12), who have outscored opponents 28-8 in winning four of five. Anthony Rendon collected four hits for the second time during that stretch in Wednesday's 7-0 victory at Houston.

Rendon, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, is batting .478 over the last five games and .316 on the season.

"There's not many young guys that can hit the ball line to line like Anthony does," manager Matt Williams said. "He proved it again - double to right-center, single to right, double to left and a homer to right. Pretty impressive night."

Rendon went 8 for 42 versus Philadelphia during his rookie year last season, including 2 for 10 with a homer against Lee.

The Phillies, who were off Monday and Thursday, fell 6-1 to the Mets on Tuesday before Wednesday's game was postponed due to rain.

Philadelphia ranks near the bottom of the NL with a 4.31 ERA, including a 4.84 mark from its bullpen.

"It's something that needs to be more consistent," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told the team's official website, "but I think across the board, we need to play good defense, we need to run the bases well, we need to pitch well."

The Phillies will try to slow down Jayson Werth, who is batting .371 during an eight-game hitting streak. Werth, who played for Philadelphia from 2007-10, is hitting .378 with four homers and 16 RBIs during a 20-game stretch against his former team and is 10 for 28 (.357) with two homers versus Lee.

The Nationals have taken seven of nine from Philadelphia by a combined 58-26 score.

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