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The Washington Nationals began the season with great expectations - little did they know that their three-game finale versus the host Arizona Diamondbacks would provide an unceremonious end to it all. After getting swept by St. Louis, the Nationals take the field for Friday's series opener with nothing more than pride at stake. Washington entered 2013 with lofty aspirations, but Atlanta wrapped up the division and the National League Central contingent cornered the market on the wild-card spots.
After being shut down prior to the end of last season, Stephen Strasburg has stayed around to see this one close. The hard-throwing right-hander's final mark will pale in comparison to his 15-6 effort in 2012, but his ERA (3.02), WHIP (1.05) and opponents' batting average (.206) trump last season's totals. Strasburg will need to keep an eye on Paul Goldschmidt, who extended his hitting streak to 16 games in Arizona's 3-2 loss in 11 innings to San Diego on Thursday.
TV: 9:40 p.m. ET, MASN2 (Washington), FSAZ (Arizona)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals RH Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 3.02 ERA) vs. Diamondbacks LH Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.28)
Strasburg settled for his sixth no-decision in eight outings on Sunday after the bullpen failed to hold its end of the bargain following his six-inning effort against Miami. The 25-year-old fireballer has won his lone decision in three career meetings with the Diamondbacks, limiting the opposition to an anemic .188 batting average. Strasburg has fanned 187 batters over a career-best 176 innings in 2013.
Despite being staked to a seven-run lead on Sunday, Corbin sputtered his way through a four-run, career-high 10-hit performance and fell two outs shy of qualifying for his 15th victory. The 24-year-old All-Star is just 1-4 in his last six starts, but has pitched well in the desert this season. Corbin owns an 8-3 mark at home with a 2.68 ERA in 16 trips to the mound.
1. Goldschmidt, who is a sizzling 26-for-64 during his hitting streak, is batting .354 (17-for-48) in 12 career games versus Washington.
2. While Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III joked that he could use some sliding tips from Nationals OF Bryce Harper, the latter would be better served to concentrate on his hitting. Harper is 2-for-19 in his last five contests.
3. Arizona's Martin Prado, who belted a two-run homer on Thursday, has hit safely in seven of his last eight contests.
PREDICTION: Nationals 2, Diamondbacks 1