Braves-Nationals preview

WASHINGTON — Cy Young candidate Stephen Strasburg looks to rebound from a rare loss when the Washington Nationals open a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Strasburg (15-2, 2.80 ERA) turned in his shortest outing of the season Saturday, leaving after 4 2/3 innings of a 7-1 loss to the Giants. He allowed four runs on eight hits.

He'll face a Braves team that found itself on the wrong side of history Thursday when they lost 11-3 to Milwaukee. The Brewers became the eighth team in baseball's expansion era to score in every inning as they earned a split of the four-game series at Miller Park.

“It wasn't our best day out there,” Atlanta catcher Anthony Recker said. “We just weren't able to get guys out when we needed to. They did a good job of putting some good pitches in play.”

Strasburg is 8-7 with a 3.55 ERA in 21 starts versus the Braves. That includes 4-4 with a 2.94 ERA in 11 games at Nationals Park.

Right hander Mike Foltynewicz (5-5, 4.37) makes his first start against Washington. He held the Cardinals to a run on six hits on Sunday to even his record.

Foltynewicz faces a first-place Washington team that hopes to have Bryce Harper back in the lineup. Harper has missed three straight games with neck stiffness. Manager Dusty Baker was hopeful the day-and-a-half from Wednesday afternoon to Friday night might make the difference.

The Nationals (67-46), who were also missing infielders Ryan Zimmerman (left wrist contusion) and Stephen Drew (vertigo-like symptoms), were held to one run in back-to-back games before busting out for seven runs and 11 hits — including four doubles — against the Indians on Wednesday.

“We had been depending on the home run quite a bit,” Baker said. “We like to have some offensive balance. You know, keep the line moving, first to third. That's contagious.”

Jayson Werth homered for the second straight game and added a double. The 37-year-old left fielder has reached base in 40 consecutive games.

“I wouldn't trade him for the world,” Gio Gonzalez said. “He's the guy you want in that lineup. It's something that's always exciting to see when he's up in the batter's box. He's going to fight you to the end.”

Atlanta's Nick Markakis arrives in Washington on a hot streak. After two hits Thursday, he's batting .351 with nine runs, six doubles, two homers, 15 RBIs and 12 walks since the All-Star Break.

Erick Aybar had three hits Thursday, finishing a triple short of the cycle.

Matt Kemp was out of the starting lineup Thursday for the first time since joining the Braves, but flied out as a pinch hitter. Kemp his hitting .200 with two doubles and a homer since his trade from San Diego.

In his career, Kemp is 2-for-10 versus Strasburg. Freddie Freeman, on the other hand, is 12 for 31 with three homers and nine RBIs, and Nick Markakis is 5 for 15.

The Nationals own a 7 1/2-game lead over second-place Miami. The last-place Braves (43-72) are 4-3 on a 10-game trip as they work to avoid 100 losses.

“I think we're doing a pretty good job of hanging in there right now with all the injuries and stretching the organization as thin as we have,” manager Brian Snitker said Thursday, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We're doing okay.”