Nationals-Giants Preview

The Washington Nationals are doing their best not to let frustration get the best of them.

Though they’ll have Max Scherzer pitching on the road where he excels, the Nationals likely need to jump-start their offense in order to avoid a fourth straight defeat Friday night against the San Francisco Giants.

Washington (58-56) has recorded a Yunel Escobar first-inning homer from Thursday’s 3-1 loss at San Francisco and 14 other hits while batting .156, going 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and striking out 32 times in the last three contests. The Nationals have lost 10 of 14 and are 4 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets in the East, but won’t panic.

”We’re all professionals here. We’re not going to let how the last game went affect the next one,” Thursday’s loser Stephen Strasburg said. ”We’re just going to keep working hard. It’ll figure itself out. It’ll all come out in the wash. We just have to stick together and keep pulling for each other and leave it all out there on the field.”

Manager Matt Williams could tweak his lineup after his club managed five hits and fanned 14 times Thursday.

”You’ll know when I make the lineup (Friday)," he said.

The Nationals should at least feel confident behind Scherzer (11-8, 2.44 ERA). The right-hander is 7-3 with an NL-best 1.87 ERA in 12 road starts but has posted a 5.25 ERA in two August outings – both at home. He yielded three of his four runs over six innings of Sunday’s 6-4 loss to Colorado on solo homers.

"You can’t ever afford to leave the ball in the middle of the plate and I paid for it,” he said.

Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey are the only Giants to homer off Scherzer, who last faced San Francisco in the fourth and final game of the 2012 World Series with Detroit.

Posey had two hits with an RBI on Thursday to help the Giants (61-53) win for the second time in three contests following four straight losses at Wrigley Field. San Francisco is 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the West.

Batting .332 and tied for second in the majors with Washington’s Bryce Harper, Posey has hit .370 in his last 11 regular season and playoff games against the Nationals.

The Giants hope to see some improvement from Matt Cain (2-3, 5.59), who is 0-2 with a 7.80 ERA in his last three starts. The right-hander gave up five runs, six hits, walked a season-high five and hit two batters in four-plus innings of Saturday’s 8-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

”I’m making too many mistakes in situations where I can get myself out of it, and I’ve got to eliminate those,” Cain said.

With injuries to starters Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and recently acquired Mike Leake, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has perhaps extended his patience with a veteran who has been back a little more than a month from elbow surgery and a strained flexor tendon.

”Is he where he’s going to be?” Bochy said. ”I don’t think so, but I thought his stuff was good – 92, 93 (mph). He made some great pitches, he made some mistakes. I’m sure it’s going to get better with time.”

Cain is 0-1 with a 4.34 ERA in his last three starts against the Nationals.

Jayson Werth is batting .125 in his last 14 games but is 5 for 8 with a homer against Cain.

The Giants won’t have outfielder Nori Aoki for the immediate future after he was placed on the seven-day concussion list Thursday.