Braves-Nationals Preview

An illness delayed Stephen Strasburg's attempt to open a season with two straight winning starts for the first time since he was a rookie six years ago. That chance could be pushed back again.

With Strasburg's status still unknown, the Washington Nationals attempt to tie a franchise record by continuing their dominance of the winless Atlanta Braves on Thursday.

Strasburg was scheduled to start Wednesday but was scratched as a precaution due to the lingering effects of an illness. Washington (6-1) instead sent Tanner Roark to the mound, and he went seven innings in a 3-0 win over Atlanta.

"We gave him 24 hours to prepare and he came through big time," manager Dusty Baker said.

Strasburg might take the ball in the finale of this four-game set, but the Nationals have Yusmeiro Petit ready for a spot start. Petit made one start in 42 games with San Francisco last year, allowing four runs in six innings of a loss at Colorado.

Baker hasn't decided if Strasburg will get a chance to beat the Braves for a fifth start in a row. The right-hander allowed one run in six innings of a 3-1 road win April 6 after winning the previous three by striking out 20 over 18 scoreless innings.

Extending that streak would give the Nationals a 14th consecutive home victory over Atlanta, tying the franchise record set as the Montreal Expos against San Diego from 1993-95.

It would also give the Braves their longest slide on the road against an opponent since losing 17 in a row to the Chicago Cubs from 1935-36.

There are few reasons to believe Atlanta (0-8) won't move closer to matching that streak. The team is off to its worst start to a season since losing the first 10 games of 1988, and it's batting .199 while averaging 2.8 runs.

The dreadful start isn't much of a surprise since the Braves are 25-61 since holding a 42-42 record on July 7. It's the worst record of any team in the majors over that stretch.

Julio Teheran takes the mound in search of a bounce-back effort. The right-hander was tagged for five runs - four earned - and six hits with four strikeouts and as many walks in four innings of Saturday's 12-2 loss to St. Louis.

"We didn't make some plays behind Julio, and he just struggled," manager Fredi Gonzalez told MLB's official website. "There's no pitching staff alive that survives when a starting pitcher only goes four innings. You start going into the middle relievers, and we didn't catch the ball behind those guys either."

Teheran was much better five days earlier against the Nationals, yielding solo homers to Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy in six innings of a 4-3 loss in 10.

He's 0-1 with a 4.29 ERA over his last six starts against them.

Teheran has major problems with Harper and Murphy. Harper is 11 for 25 with four homers and three doubles off him, while Murphy is 7 for 17 with one home run.

Harper, though, is 1 for 11 in this series after going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts Wednesday. Murphy, though, is 11 for 22 with two homers, seven RBIs and a 1.516 OPS. He's batting .395 while driving in 11 runs over his last 11 meetings with Atlanta.

Freddie Freeman is 2 for 25 and 0 for 12 over the past four games. He might be looking forward to facing Strasburg since he's 12 for 31 with three homers in the matchup.

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