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STL@WSH: Strasburg strikes out nine over six innings

Another day, another lefty, as the Padres turn to Robbie Erlin to start on Friday against the Nationals in the second game of a four-game series at Nationals Park.

On Thursday, the Nationals got a long look at lefty starter Eric Stults, who allowed two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings as the Padres edged the Nats, 4-3, in 12 innings.

In the second game of the series, the Padres turn to Erlin, who has a 1-2 record and a 4.15 ERA in four starts. He's been good against left-handed hitters, and the Nationals have a few of them.

Erlin allowed four runs over the first two innings of his last start against the Giants, but regrouped and set down 14 consecutive hitters at one point.

"I'm happy with that, but again, those adjustments should be made earlier on to stop those two runs from scoring," Erlin said. "It's something to improve upon going forward and something to work on."

Left-handed batters are hitting just .067 against Erlin (1-for-15). He'll no doubt see lefties such as Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Adam LaRoche.

Right-hander Stephen Strasburg starts for Washington. Strasburg has struggled at the start of the season, going 1-2 with a 5.33 ERA. The San Diego native has been up and down and unusually inconsistent so far.

Strasburg has given up 19 runs in 27 innings while striking out 42 and walking just 10. Strasburg has fanned at least nine in three of his starts, yet hasn't made it out of the fifth inning in two of them, so Washington's hoping he regains his form versus his hometown team.

The Padres certainly like their chances with their pitching, even though they have allowed two home runs in each of the last two games -- Wednesday against the Brewers and then two more on Thursday against the Nationals.

The Padres' streak of 21 games to open the season without allowing multiple home runs was the longest in franchise history.

Before Wednesday's loss, the Friars were the lone Major League team this season that hadn't allowed multiple home runs in a game.

SD: Alonso digs the Nats
He can't explain it, but Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso has found great success during his five-year career against the Nationals, posting a .421/.425/.816 (16-for-38) line going into Thursday's series opener. In that stretch, Alonso has six doubles, three home runs, five RBIs and eight runs scored in 12 career games against Washington. He did go 0-for-4 on Thursday.

Alonso's batting average and his slugging percentage are his highest against any Major League foe, and his on-base percentage ranks second for him.

Among active Major League hitters with at least 40 plate appearances against the Nationals since 2011, Alonso's average is the second highest behind only reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen (.427).

Nats: Leaning on 'pen
Washington came into this series with the second-best bullpen in the Major Leagues, according to ERAs. The Nationals had just a 2.08 ERA through their first 22 games and have backed up a good starting rotation that has struggled a bit in the early going.

In fact, the Nationals' bullpen is averaging 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Which bullpen is the only one ranked higher? San Diego, which entered the series with a 1.74 ERA, as opponents are hitting just .194 (best in the Majors) against them.

On Thursday, the bullpen allowed one run over the final six innings of the loss to the Padres.

Worth noting
• The Padres will place third baseman Chase Headley on the disabled list on Friday with a strained right calf. The team will add infielder Jace Peterson from Double-A San Antonio. Peterson played third base during Spring Training when Headley was sidelined with a strained left calf.

• The Padres don't believe outfielder Seth Smith will need a DL stint after he suffered a right groin strain chasing down Jose Lobaton's double in the 10th inning on Thursday. Manager Bud Black said that he'll likely miss two to three days. Comments