Cardinals-Nationals Preview

Stephen Strasburg has been less than impressive to start the season, though he’s looked better at home than on the road – just like last year.

The Washington Nationals hope that trend continues for Sunday’s series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals, especially considering Shelby Miller’s mastery of Washington last season.

Strasburg (1-2, 6.00 ERA) is coming off his worst performance thus far, giving up six earned runs and eight hits with three walks over four innings of an 11-2 loss at Miami on Tuesday. He had limited the Marlins to one run and three hits while striking out 12 in 6 2-3 innings at home five days earlier in his lone win of the season.

The right-hander owns a 9.00 ERA in two road starts and 3.27 in two outings at Nationals Park. Strasburg was 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA at home last year, compared to 5-4 and 1.73 on the road.

All six runs against him Tuesday came in the first two innings, including a three-run homer by Giancarlo Stanton in the first.

"I think for me, if I can get through the first couple innings unscathed I’m pretty much able to shut the door from there," Strasburg told the team’s website. "…I can live with a couple runs here or there in the first, but that (home run) put me behind the eight ball."

The Nationals (10-8) could use a dominant outing from Strasburg, 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts against St. Louis, given their defensive woes this season and offensive struggles in this series. They’ve totaled six runs and 15 hits through the first three games and are hitting .163 while dropping nine of their last 10 regular-season meetings with St. Louis.

Anthony Rendon’s poor throw – Washington’s major league-leading 20th error of the season – led to a three-run second inning for St. Louis in Saturday’s 4-3 defeat. The Nationals’ 107 errors tied for the seventh most in baseball in 2013, having endured a similarly rough start with 18 errors in their first 18 contests.

Adding to their problems was what manager Matt Williams described as a "lack of hustle" from Bryce Harper when he nonchalantly ran out a comebacker to the mound in the sixth inning. Williams pulled Harper from the game, though Harper didn’t appear to have a problem with it, later saying he respected his manager’s decision.

"He and I made an agreement, this team made an agreement, that when we play the game, that we hustle at all times," Williams said.

The Cardinals (11-7) seek their seventh win in nine games and should be in good hands with Miller (1-2, 4.67) on the mound given his success versus Washington. He won both starts against the Nationals as a rookie last season, limiting them to one earned run and seven hits in 12 2-3 innings. Washington’s No. 1-4 hitters – Denard Span, Harper, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche – are a combined 3 for 21 against Miller.

He limited Milwaukee to one run and three hits with seven strikeouts over six innings in a 6-1 victory Tuesday for his first win of the season. The only run against him came on Aramis Ramirez’s homer after Miller had allowed eight earned runs in his first two starts.

Span was 2 for 5 on Saturday after being activated from the disabled list. He showed no lingering effects from a concussion after a collision last weekend with Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla.

Matt Holliday is 4 for 6 lifetime off Strasburg.