With recent injury concerns seemingly behind him, Stephen Strasburg hopes to avoid matching the longest winless stretch of his career.
Strasburg looks to win for the first time since opening day and help extend the Washington Nationals' season-high winning streak Saturday when they host the Chicago Cubs.After firing seven shutout innings to beat Miami on April 1, the ace right-hander has gone 0-4 with a 4.10 ERA over his last six starts.The Nationals (20-15) had dropped five straight with Strasburg (1-4, 3.45 ERA) starting before a 5-4 win at Pittsburgh on Saturday, when he struck out eight and allowed four runs over seven innings.Strasburg showed no signs of discomfort after general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed he was experiencing some irritation in his right forearm following a start against Atlanta on April 29."I was absolutely happy about getting through the seventh inning," Strasburg said. "The biggest thing is to give your team a chance to win the ballgame. Not every game are you going to be lights out and hitting every spot."He went a career-worst seven straight starts without a win from Aug. 10, 2010-Sept. 23, 2011, undergoing Tommy John surgery in the middle of that stretch.Now he'll try to lift the Nationals to a sixth win in a row as they continue a three-game set against the Cubs (13-22).In his only start versus Chicago, Strasburg yielded one run and five hits over seven innings in a 2-1 win at Wrigley Field on April 5, 2012.Despite playing without Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, the Nationals won 7-3 in Friday's series opener behind Ian Desmond's two-run homer and RBI double."When your 3-hole hitter's out of there," manager Davey Johnson said, referring to Harper, "and you score a bunch of runs, that's big."While Harper (ingrown toenail) is expected to be available Saturday, Werth could be headed to the disabled list because of a hamstring injury that has kept him out since May 2.Harper is 6 for 13 with four extra-base hits -- including two homers -- lifetime against the Cubs, who have lost six of eight.After winning 10 games for the Nationals last season, scheduled starter Edwin Jackson (0-5, 6.39) is still searching for his first victory as a Cub. He's been particularly bad in losing his last two outings, giving up 12 runs and 19 hits in 9 2/3 innings."Been a slow start to say the least. Not exactly how I had it envisioned," said Jackson, who has a 9.00 ERA in four home starts but 3.18 in three road games.The right-hander's only career start against the Nationals came in 2011, striking out eight over seven shutout innings in a 9-5 loss while with the Chicago White Sox.Jackson must be wary of Adam LaRoche, who has hit safely in seven straight overall (11 for 21) and seven in a row versus the Cubs while batting .571 with seven homers and 12 RBIs. Desmond also has been ripping apart Chicago pitching, hitting .440 with three homers, four doubles and eight RBIs in the last six meetings.The Cubs have lost the last five matchups with the Nationals even with Starlin Castro hitting .412 during an eight-game hitting streak against them.Castro had two hits Friday as did teammate Anthony Rizzo, who is batting .450 with seven doubles and seven RBIs over his last 10 games.