WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals will return from a second straight winning road trip when they host the Cincinnati Reds on Friday at Nationals Park.
Coverage begins Friday at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Ohio
Washington went 4-3 on a road trip to New York and Miami, as the Nationals won three of four against the Mets before dropping two of the three to the Marlins. Washington was off Thursday after playing 20 days in a row and after Max Scherzer lost a no-hit bid and the game in the eighth inning Wednesday to the Marlins.
In the previous road trip, the Nationals were 7-2 on a swing through San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, taking two of three from the Dodgers.
“We are one of the best road teams around,” said Dusty Baker, the Nationals manager.
Washington, however, has not been as good at home of late.
In the previous homestand, the Nationals were swept in three games by the Texas Rangers and lost two of three against the lowly Atlanta Braves.
First-place Washington (43-29) will look to get started strong on Friday as Baker will send right-hander Stephen Strasburg (8-2, 3.28) to the mound to face right-hander Luis Castillo, a former Marlins prospect who will be making his major league debut for Reds manager Bryan Price.
The last-place Reds (30-41) are coming off a loss on Wednesday at Tampa Bay. Cincinnati was also off on Thursday and has lost 10 of its last 11.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” Price told reporters after an 8-3 loss Wednesday. “It would have been a good feel to not just break a losing streak but to win a series. For us to do what we want to do, we have to start to knock down series.”
Castillo is coming from Double-A Pensacola, where he was 4-4 with a 2.58 ERA in 14 starts.
“He’s throwing good stuff, he’s throwing strikes,” Price told reporters of Castillo. “That’s really what we need.”
Despite overall strong numbers this year, Strasburg has not been as dominant at home as on the road in 2017.
And he has struggled with the Reds since he got to the majors in 2010.
Strasburg has a 4.15 ERA in six starts at home this year and has a 3.40 ERA in his last nine starts overall.
Strasburg is 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA in six starts in his career against the Reds, having allowed 28 hits and 13 walks in 31 innings, while striking out 31.
Strasburg, in his last start, got the win as the Nationals beat the host Mets 7-4. He gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings and benefitted from three homers by Washington on Saturday.
“I think it just shows the makeup of this team that we’re very capable of winning on any given day, even when we’re not firing on all cylinders,” Strasburg told reporters.
Last year was the first time Strasburg faced the Reds twice in the same year. He faced them one time in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015. In his start against them in 2013, he gave up nine hits and six runs in 5 1/3 innings and was tagged with the loss.
Current Reds hitters are 7-for-46 (.152) against Strasburg, and that includes shortstop Zack Cozart, who went on the 10-day disabled list Monday with a strained right quadriceps and will miss the three-game series in Washington. Cozart is hitless in 10 at-bats against Strasburg.
The player with the Reds who has the most at-bats against Strasburg is Joey Votto, who is 3-for-14 with two homers.
Cincinnati’s Scooter Gennett, who hit four homers against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 6, is 2-for-5 against Strasburg with two homers.
Friday will begin a stretch of 17 days in a row of games for the Nationals before the All-Star break starts July 10. The Reds rotation includes Tim Adelman, who pitched at nearby Georgetown. He started Wednesday at Tampa Bay and is not slated to start this weekend.