Nationals-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

The Washington Nationals are about to get a boost from the expected return of two key members of their starting rotation.

Ross Detwiler will be the first to come off the disabled list and try to help the Nationals win their first road series in more than a month Thursday against the Colorado Rockies.

With Detwiler (2-4, 2.76 ERA) set to make his first start since straining a back muscle May 15 and star Stephen Strasburg expected back from a lat strain Sunday at Cleveland, Washington (32-32) has reason to feel optimistic.

"It's always tough, but in a long season like this, you kind of have to expect something to go wrong," Detwiler told the Nationals' official website. "We were fortunate enough last year, as a pitching staff, to be healthy all year, but our hitters weren't healthy all year.

"Hopefully we get everything out of the way and in the second half we can just look forward and not have to worry about injuries."

Detwiler, who allowed one run in 3 2-3 innings during a rehab appearance with Class-A Potomac on Saturday, plans to wait to give a fair assessment of his recovery.

"I'll let you know after (Thursday's) game," the left-hander said. "Still a big step (Thursday), so we'll see."

Detwiler's two starts versus the Rockies were both losses at Coors Field, posting an 8.00 ERA.

He'll try to help the Nationals build on a 5-1 victory over Colorado (35-31) on Wednesday and win a series on the road for the first time since taking two of three at Pittsburgh from May 3-5. Ross Ohlendorf threw six strong innings in his Washington debut, and Ian Desmond had three RBIs as the Nationals notched their third win in 12 road games.

Desmond is batting .358 with 11 RBIs during a career-high 14-game hitting streak. He's hit .469 with 12 RBIs in his last eight games versus Colorado, and he's 3 for 8 with a double and a home run against scheduled Rockies starter Jeff Francis (2-4, 6.30).

The left-hander will try to bounce back after he allowed four runs, six hits and three walks in four innings of a 4-2 loss to San Diego on Saturday. It was his first outing since missing almost a month with a left groin strain.

"I don't think I was rusty," said Francis, whose spot in the Rockies rotation appears anything but stable.

"I think any day you think the same way, whether it is April or September."

He is 1-2 with a 4.81 ERA in seven starts versus Washington.

Infielder Jonathan Herrera had two of the three hits Wednesday for the Rockies, who averaged 7.1 runs and 13.1 hits while winning five of the previous seven.

Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki went 0 for 4, but he still ranks third in the majors with a .347 batting average.

Teammate Michael Cuddyer is expected to play Thursday after missing five games with a ribcage strain. He's batting .395 with eight RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak.

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