Nationals-Cardinals Preview

The Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals combined for a run and five hits in their series opener at Busch Stadium.

Considering the way Stephen Strasburg is pitching, coupled with the gem Shelby Miller had his last time out and his history of dominance against the Nationals, another pitchers’ duel could materialize Saturday night.

The Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann tossed a three-hitter Friday, but was outdueled by the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn in a 1-0 loss. Matt Adams homered on his first swing since coming off the disabled list before the game for St. Louis (35-32), which defeated Washington for the 10th time in 12 regular-season meetings.

Adams had two hits in his first game since May 28, and is 2 for 3 with a pair of doubles against Strasburg.

”I was trying to make sure my timing was where it needed to be, see the ball and get the barrel on it,” said Adams, who is batting a team-best .330. ”Everything felt good.”

Despite losing their second in a row, the Nationals (35-31) are 10-4 with their starting pitchers recording a major league-best 1.41 ERA since May 30.

”They were one pitch better than we were,” manager Matt Williams said. ”So we’ll come get them tomorrow.”

Giving the ball to Strasburg (6-4, 2.99 ERA) should certainly help.

Strasburg, the major league leader with an average of 11.13 strikeouts per nine innings, has a 1.42 ERA with 27 strikeouts to one walk over 19 innings in winning his last three starts.

He held San Francisco to a run and four hits before being pulled as a precaution due to some tightness in his back before going out for the seventh inning in Monday’s 9-2 win. The right-hander didn’t seem to be too hampered by his back, retiring 13 of the final 14 batters he faced, but Williams thought it would be best to play it safe.

Strasburg, who credits his recent success to a change he made in the way his foot touches the pitching rubber, has a 2.04 ERA while recording 10 straight quality starts. That streak began against St. Louis on April 20, when he permitted two runs while striking out nine over six innings in a 3-2 win, but he didn’t get the decision. He has never beaten the Cardinals in three starts despite a 2.37 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP.

Miller (7-5, 3.59) opposed Strasburg in the nation’s capital two months ago, and gave up four hits and a season-worst five walks in 5 1-3 scoreless innings. He is 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA in three career starts versus Washington.

Jayson Werth, Denard Span, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond each have just one hit off Miller, going a combined 4 for 31 (.129).

Miller took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning Saturday in Toronto and finished with a three-hitter in a 5-0 victory for his second career shutout. He retired the first 13 batters and finished with five strikeouts and a walk.

"Shelby, in the past, has really depended on stuff and just pure ability," manager Mike Matheny told MLB’s official website. "I see him realizing that this league is pretty good, and these guys are smart and have all the resources that we have and they’re going to be getting better. That’s huge for his confidence."

Prior to his dominating performance, Miller was in a bit of a rut, recording a 7.94 ERA in losing his previous three starts. However, he was 6-0 with a 1.79 ERA in seven starts before that.