Rockies-Nationals Preview


Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg couldn't get the job done in the series opener against the Colorado Rockies.

The Nationals will look for better results with their other All-Star pitcher on the hill.

Gio Gonzalez tries to win a fourth consecutive start and match the major league lead for wins Saturday as the NL East-leading Nationals hope to solve their woes against Colorado in the nation's capital.

Trying to extend the Nationals' four-game winning streak and season-best 5-0 run in D.C., Strasburg gave up three runs - all on Tyler Colvin's two home runs - in Friday's 5-1 series-opening defeat.

"It's not a good feeling, but what can you do?'' Strasburg said after losing a third consecutive start for the first time.

The Nationals (48-33) are also looking for answers as to why they've lost 11 of 14 at home to the Rockies (32-51) since 2008.

Making his final start of the first half, Gonzalez (11-3, 3.01 ERA) will try to tie New York's R.A. Dickey for baseball's lead in victories. However, the left-hander is coming off back-to-back rough outings.

Prior to walking four and yielding four runs in five-plus innings of Sunday's 8-4 victory over Atlanta, Gonzalez surrendered five runs in six innings of a 12-5 road win over Colorado on June 26. He also gave up two homers - half his season total - as he made his first appearance against the Rockies, the NL leaders with 102 home runs.

Colvin has been the biggest long ball threat lately, hitting five in the last five games after becoming the first player to go deep off Strasburg twice in the same contest.

"For some reason, we've been making more mistake pitches to him than the other guys," Strasburg said of Colvin, who is batting .588 (10 for 17) with three homers and nine RBIs in four games versus Washington in 2012.

Jeff Francis (2-1, 5.16) benefited from a three-run Colvin homer in his last outing, Tuesday's 3-2 win at St. Louis.

The left-hander threw five innings of two-run ball in his sixth start since rejoining the club June 9 as a free agent.

If Francis can match a career high by winning a third consecutive start, he'll tie Jason Jennings for second in team history with 58 victories.

"I love being here, I love playing for this team,'' Francis said. "For them to give me a shot, so far I've pitched well and taken advantage of it. Hopefully, it sticks.''

Colorado has won each of his last five outings, including a 4-2 victory over the visiting Nationals on June 25 when he struck out five in five innings.

Francis needs to be careful pitching to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who is batting .333 with five homers and 17 RBIs in his last 12 games. His ninth-inning homer Friday prevented Washington, which had scored 32 runs in its previous four games, from getting shut out at home for the first time in 2012.

Zimmerman is 9 for 18 with a homer and three doubles off Francis.

All-Star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez has hit safely in all five games against Washington this season, going 10 for 19 with three doubles and six runs scored.

He has two hits - including a double - in three at-bats versus Gonzalez.

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