Stephen Strasburg returns as Nationals face Orioles

MLB

The Washington Nationals will start a nine-game homestand when they welcome the slumping Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.

Washington will head home after a seven-game road trip in which it posted a 3-4 record. Baltimore was just swept in a three-game series by the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and has lost seven of its past eight.

The Nationals dropped three of four games against the Chicago Cubs this week, including a 5-2 setback on Thursday afternoon.

Now, the Nationals are looking to bounce back from a quiet day at the plate.

“Two big homers to start the top of the first,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “I thought we were going to get something going and continue to keep going, and then the bats went dormant. …

“We’ve got to continue to push. Keep going, stay positive and hopefully we get big hits. I mean, that’s the key. You get a couple guys on base and get that big hit.”

The next test will come against the Orioles, who will begin a 10-game road trip with the short visit to the nation’s capital. Baltimore is coming off a six-game homestand in which it went 1-5.

The Orioles are coming off a 10-1 thumping by Tampa Bay on Thursday. Baltimore fell behind 4-0 in the second inning and never recovered.

“We have not played well the past couple weeks,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Our pitching is really beat up right now. We have to have starters go longer.”

The next starter for Baltimore will be Jorge Lopez (1-4, 6.35 ERA). The right-hander is coming off the shortest of his eight starts this year, a two-inning stint against the New York Yankees on Saturday. He surrendered five runs (four earned) on six hits and two walks while striking out four.

Lopez has not earned a victory since April 16 against the Texas Rangers, as he is 0-2 with a 4.87 ERA in his past five outings.

In three career games against Washington, all relief appearances, Lopez is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA.

The Nationals will counter with right-hander Stephen Strasburg (0-1, 6.30 ERA), who will make his third start of the season and his first since April 13. He has been on the injured list for the past month because of inflammation in his pitching shoulder.

The 32-year-old veteran struggled with reduced velocity before the team decided to put him on the IL.

Strasburg has faced the Orioles five times in his career. He is 1-1 with a 5.48 ERA in those outings, during which he notched 28 strikeouts in 23 innings.

The status of Nationals outfielder Victor Robles for the series opener is uncertain after he sat out Thursday because of right ankle soreness. X-rays taken on Robles’ ankle were negative.

Martinez said he is optimistic that his team will find its groove.

“We started the road trip off with a bang, but I mean, we’ve run into some tough luck, we really have,” Martinez said. “We’ve had some days where we hit the ball really hard and had nothing to show for it. …

“I’ve just got to praise the boys and tell them to keep going. (Balls will) fall. They’ll find holes. Just keep swinging the bats.”

–Field Level Media

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