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Preview: Dodgers at Nationals

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Los Angeles Dodgers look to continue their hot hand when they open a three-game series at the Washington Nationals on Friday. Winners of 17 of their last 22 contests, the Dodgers also may receive some additional positive news in relation to the health of ailing outfielders Yasiel Puig (hip) and Carl Crawford (back). The pair is expected to return to the lineup as Los Angeles attempts to chip away at its 2 1/2-game deficit in the National League West.

Washington is trending in the opposite direction, having dropped five of seven to fall six games behind Atlanta in the NL East. A sluggish offense has prevented the Nationals from making a serious charge at the Braves, although manager Davey Johnson insists he isn't worried. "We have had a few hiccups with injuries, but I think we are in good shape going into the second half," Johnson told MASN. "We are an awfully good ballclub, we just need to play like it."

TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, PRIME (Los Angeles), MASN (Washington)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Dodgers RH Ricky Nolasco (6-9, 3.76 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Stephen Strasburg (5-7, 2.99)

Nolasco came up short in his home debut with his new team, yielding three runs on eight hits over five innings in a 3-1 loss to Colorado on Sunday. The 30-year-old has allowed only six runs over 19 frames in his last three outings. Nolasco struggled in his last meeting with the Nationals, permitting four runs on seven hits over six innings in a 6-1 setback on April 17.

Strasburg has yet to record a decision versus Los Angeles despite yielding just one run and striking out 13 in two starts. The fireballer struggled mightily in his last outing, surrendering seven runs and walking four in a career-low two innings of work in a loss to Miami on July 12. Strasburg has pitched well at home (1.65 ERA, 0.93 WHIP) but only has a 4-3 mark to show for it.

WALK-OFFS

1. Washington OF Bryce Harper, who was shuffled into the leadoff position on Sunday, is 9-for-20 with two home runs in his career against Nolasco.

2. Los Angeles SS Hanley Ramirez has a pair of doubles among his three career hits versus Strasburg. Ramirez has hit safely in 13 of his last 16 contests.

3. Nationals RF Jayson Werth is just 4-for-34 lifetime against Nolasco but has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 contests.

PREDICTION: Nationals 4, Dodgers 2

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130719/preview-dodgers-at-nationals