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Nationals-Mets Preview

While Stephen Strasburg is out to prove he deserves the lucrative money the Washington Nationals just gave him, Matt Harvey is trying to validate his spot in the New York Mets' rotation.

The pair squares off in Thursday night's rubber game as the host Mets seek their ninth win in the last 12 games of this NL East series.

First-place Washington (24-16) scored just two runs on a three-game losing streak, which included Tuesday's series-opening 2-0 loss, but broke out with Wednesday's 7-1 victory.

Daniel Murphy drove in two runs against his former team and the Mets (22-17) issued 11 walks in a game that lasted 3 hours, 42 minutes. Washington handed New York its fifth loss in six games.

The Nationals turn to their ace to try and seal their eighth series victory in their last nine visits to New York.

Strasburg (6-0, 2.95 ERA) wasn't great in his first start after signing his seven-year, $175 million contract, giving up three runs in six innings of Saturday's 6-4 win over Miami. He still picked up his sixth win, though in his last two outings, the right-hander has surrendered seven runs in 13 innings.

At times against the Marlins, Strasburg relied heavily on his fastball with an inconsistent curveball, changeup and slider.

"It was not my best. I'm going to learn from it," Strasburg told MLB's official website. "The guys played great behind me. It was a good win for us. The other pitches - curveball, changeup, even slider - they kind of just showed up and they disappeared for a little bit. There is going to be games like that. But I just wanted to go out there and give it everything I had and keep it close."

He will try to prove he deserves lucrative money by improving on his stellar numbers against the Mets. Strasburg holds a 2.78 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in nine career starts against them, though those numbers stood at 4.00 and 1.39 in three 2015 starts.

Lucas Duda, Neil Walker and Travis d'Arnaud have homered off Strasburg.

Harvey (3-5, 4.93) was shelled for 11 hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings of Friday's 5-2 loss at Colorado, continuing his poor start. Opponents are batting .311 against him with 17 of 57 hits going for extra bases.

The defeat extended the lengthiest slump of Harvey's professional career.

"I struggled a little bit my sophomore year of college, but it was pretty quick and didn't really last this long," Harvey told MLB's official website. "It's frustrating. It's taking a lot longer than expected, but you can't give up. You've just got to keep going."

The latest mishap came at hitter-friendly Coors Field, and Harvey has historically loved the matchup against Washington.

The right-hander holds a 1.77 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 10 career starts against the Nationals, numbers inflated from the eight hits and seven runs he allowed in 5 1/3 innings of one start last season. Otherwise, he has allowed six earned runs in the other nine starts.

Washington hit just .210 against Harvey in six 2015 meetings while striking out 41 times in 39 innings. Astonishingly, Bryce Harper is 0 for 20 against him, striking out seven times. Jayson Werth is 4 for 19 with 11 strikeouts in the matchup, while Ryan Zimmerman is 4 for 17 with the Nationals' only home run.

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