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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, May 17th (All times Eastern)

Washington Nationals (22-19) at San Diego Padres (18-22), 10:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Washington - Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.20) San Diego - Burch Smith (0-0, 54.00)

(Sports Network) - The major league debut of Burch Smith didn't go as planned for the San Diego Padres, so they'll send him out again Friday versus the Washington Nationals in the continuation of a four-game series.

Promoted from the minor leagues last weekend, Burch faced the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday and lasted only one inning. The right-hander, who made six starts with Double-A San Antonio, allowed five hits, including a home run, and six runs with two strikeouts and two walks. He threw 42 pitches, 26 for strikes.

Burch is moving quickly through the Padres' system and was a 14th-round draft pick two years ago. The former Oklahoma ace and San Antonio native talked about some of the adjustments he has to make.

"Mistakes are going to get hit at this level. I (need to) mix it up a little bit better," Smith said. "I'm always going to be a fastball pitcher, but I'll also need to throw some offspeed (pitches) in certain situations, too."

Burch won't have to do much to top Edinson Volquez's performance in Thursday's 6-2 loss at Petco Park. The Nationals got to Volquez for five runs and five hits in five innings with four walks, while Washington's young ace Stephen Strasburg got back into the win column after a 1-5 start, allowing two runs -- one earned -- and three hits in eight innings.

"I gave up a couple runs, and their guy -- he pitched really good tonight," Volquez said. "It was my fault. I'm supposed to pitch seven, eight innings. Today, I walked a couple guys in the beginning of the inning. ... That's something I've got to stop doing."

Chase Headley and Jedd Gyorko had two hits and a run scored apiece for the Padres, losers in four of six games since winning four in a row.

San Diego will also host St. Louis for three games on this homestand.

Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin was not with the team Thursday to be with his wife for the birth of the couple's son. His wife and newborn are doing well, but Quentin hasn't been with a .181 average and four homers. The power hitter, though, has two homers and four RBI in his last five games.

Meanwhile, Strasburg was 0-5 in seven starts before finding his groove against the Padres. The right-hander hadn't won since April 1 versus Miami and improved to 2-5 in nine starts with a 2.83 ERA. He struck out four and walked three to help the Nats win for the second time in six tries.

"I didn't think he was as sharp as he usually is, but it was a good ballgame," Nats manager Davey Johnson said of Strasburg. "It was nice to see some offense coming up to give him some run support."

Adam LaRoche hit a two-run homer and Ryan Zimmerman knocked in a pair of runs. Bryce Harper, in his first full game since colliding with the right-field wall on Monday at Dodgers Stadium, finished with a home run in four at-bats. He cracked a 400-plus foot shot to center field, his 11th homer of the season.

"The Padres pitched him tough. He hit a heck of a pitch -- a great sinker and he crushed it. It's nice to have him back," Johnson said.

Johnson hasn't had outfielder Jayson Werth in the lineup since May 2 because of a nagging hamstring injury and he was supposed to make a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac on Thursday. Werth instead saw a specialist in New York due to tightness in the limb and he is expected to play for Potomac Friday.

Werth could be activated off the disabled list soon, most likely next week during a three-game series with the San Francisco Giants.

"I want to see where he is at, when he can play some games," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "I think it's safe to say he is going to be pushed back a couple of days."

The Nationals are just one-half game behind Atlanta for the NL East lead and 2-2 so far on a 10-game western trip.

Gio Gonzalez draws the start for Washington Friday and he is 3-2 with a 4.20 earned run average in eight starts. Gonzalez has won two of his last three decisions, but did not factor in the outcome of a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, when the southpaw delivered seven shutout innings and carried a perfect game into the sixth inning.

The bullpen was unable to hold a 1-0 lead for Gonzalez, who won his only career start against San Diego last April 24 and tossed six scoreless innings of a 3-1 win at Petco Park.

San Diego lost three of five matchups with Washington last season and have dropped seven of the previous nine meetings between the clubs.

05/17 10:25:50 ET