Nationals-Red Sox Preview

The Associated Press

It's clear that Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper have helped breathe new life into the Washington Nationals.

Now they can help the franchise earn its first victory at venerable Fenway Park.

The Boston Red Sox have won all nine previous home matchups against the Nationals' franchise and will send a promising young pitcher of their own to the mound in Felix Doubront for Friday night's opener of this weekend series.

Washington (32-23) arrives at Fenway in first place in the NL East thanks in part to the youthful exuberance of Strasburg (6-1, 2.35 ERA) and Harper. The 19-year-old Harper is nursing a tender back and has been getting treatment, but didn't sound as if he would miss any part of this series after suffering a hard fall as he dove for a ball in Thursday's 3-1 defeat to the Mets.

"I'm good," said Harper, who delivered his first career walk-off hit in Tuesday's 7-6, 12-inning win over New York. "I'm totally fine to play. I won't be out of the lineup.''

Strasburg is also set for his first game at historic Fenway after he struck out nine and yielded four hits in a 90-pitch outing in a 2-0 win over Atlanta on Saturday. He has posted a 2.65 ERA in winning his last three starts.

The right-hander has never won four straight outings in his brief career, but pitching in front of the hostile Boston fans shouldn't intimidate him. He's 7-1 with a 2.09 ERA in 11 road starts as he faces the Red Sox (29-28) for the first time.

The 23-year-old Strasburg is only one year younger than Doubront (6-2, 3.75), who is tied for Boston's team lead in victories. Doubront has emerged to go 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA in his last six starts as he prepares for his first look at Washington.

The left-hander has yielded two earned runs or fewer in his last five outings, giving up that many over 6 1-3 innings Saturday in a 7-4 victory at Toronto.

"Every start he's been solid," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "It's the same thing every time. He doesn't trick anybody, he just has great stuff and good command."

Doubront has also taken advantage of a 7.22 run-support average that ranks among the best marks in baseball.

The Nationals have faced fewer left-handers than any team in the majors, going 7-5 in such games.

Washington's bullpen will receive a boost with Brad Lidge, out since April 21 with an abdominal wall strain, available this weekend.

The Nationals staff figures to be tested against a Boston offense that ranks third in the majors with 297 runs.

The Red Sox ended a three-game slide by building a six-run lead after three innings in Thursday's 7-0 home win over Baltimore. Adrian Gonzalez, who hasn't walked since May 15, ended a 2-for-17 slump with three hits and two RBIs.

Gonzalez is a career .330 hitter against Washington. He batted .423 in interleague play to lead Boston a year ago, although he went 3 for 12 as the Red Sox took two of three in Philadelphia from May 18-20.

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