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National League Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, May 11th (All times Eastern)

Washington Nationals (19-12) at Cincinnati Reds (16-14), 7:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Washington - Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 1.72) Cincinnati - Mike Leake (0-4, 5.97)

(Sports Network) - The best team in the National League East meets the No. 2 team from the NL Central tonight when the Washington Nationals visit Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park for the first of three weekend games with the homestanding Reds.

Washington enters the game off a Thursday high note, which came when it defeated Pittsburgh, 4-2, to end a season-long three-game skid.

Stephen Strasburg (3-0) racked up 13 strikeouts over six innings while giving up two runs - one earned - on five hits and three walks and the Nationals avoided being swept by the Pirates for the first time since relocating from Montreal.

Ryan Mattheus and Tyler Clippard tossed scoreless seventh and eighth innings, respectively, and Henry Rodriguez worked around an error in the ninth to nail down his seventh save of the season.

Offensively for the Nats, Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina hit solo homers and Adam LaRoche added a two-run shot.

The Nationals lead the East by one-half game over Atlanta, a full game over the New York Mets and three over Miami.

The five-time defending division champions - the Philadelphia Phillies - are last at 5 1/2 games off the pace.

Taking the mound for the visitors tonight will be left-hander Gio Gonzalez, a 31-game winner in the past two seasons before coming over from Oakland in a deal that sent four players to the Athletics.

The well-traveled southpaw was a first-round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox in 2004, went to Philadelphia in a deal for Jim Thome in 2005, then went back to the White Sox with Gavin Floyd in 2006 and headed to Oakland in a deal for Nick Swisher in 2008.

He reached the majors and made 10 appearances with the Athletics in 2008.

Gonzalez was winless in starts at Chicago and home against the Reds to begin his stint with the Nationals, but has since won three times in four starts, including a 7-1 defeat of the Phillies on May 5 in which he allowed a run on four hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts.

In 36 2/3 overall innings this spring, he's surrendered 20 hits and seven runs and struck out 41 batters.

The Reds, who stand 3 1/2 games behind the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in the Central, head home after winning two of three in Milwaukee, including a 2-1 triumph in Wednesday's rubber match.

Cincinnati broke a scoreless tie when Joey Votto delivered with a two-out RBI double in the top of the ninth inning.

Milwaukee closer John Axford (0-2) struck out the first two batters in the ninth before Drew Stubbs reached on a broken-bat single and came around to score on Votto's double to right field. Brandon Phillips then plated Votto with a bloop single to center field.

Pitching dominated as Cincinnati right-hander Johnny Cueto was locked in a duel with Milwaukee counterpart, Zack Greinke, who struck out 11 batters and scattered two hits over eight innings.

Cueto allowed five hits, walked one and fanned five in seven frames, lowering his earned run average this season to 1.12.

"That was a well-played game by both sides," said Cincinnati's Dusty Baker, who picked up his 1,500th career managerial victory. "Greinke pitched great and Johnny Cueto pitched great, too. That was an old-school pitching matchup."

Aroldis Chapman (3-0) earned the win after recording two strikeouts as part of a 1-2-3 eighth.

Stubbs and Phillips had two hits apiece for Cincinnati, which has gone undefeated in its last six series (5-0-1).

Reds righty Mike Leake takes the mound for the sixth time this season and is still in search of his first win.

The 24-year-old tossed 6 1/3 innings of five-run ball but didn't factor in the decision in Cincinnati's 8-5 decision at Washington on April 15, but he's 0-4 in his remaining starts while the Reds have been outscored, 18-8.

Leake allowed three runs on four hits in seven innings of his most recent start on May 5 in Pittsburgh, but dropped a 3-2 decision.

He's pitched six innings or more three times and has allowed three runs each time, but lost each decision.

He is 3-1 in five career starts against the Nationals.

05/11 10:47:45 ET