Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals are coming off their highest offensive output of the year, overcoming a rare shaky effort on the mound in the first of two against the visiting San Diego Padres.
The Nationals seem likely to resume their dominance on the hill with Stephen Strasburg set to toe the rubber Tuesday afternoon.
Harper went deep for the first time in his big league career Monday, belting a solo shot in an 8-5 victory over NL worst-San Diego (12-24). At 19 years, 211 days old, Harper became the youngest player to homer since Adrian Beltre - then of the Los Angeles Dodgers - went deep at 19 years, 171 days on Sept. 25, 1998.
"I was trying to go up there and get a knock. That's all I was worried about," Harper told MLB.com. "I was trying to get something I could drive and go out of the ballpark. I have guys around me that are hitting very well. It gets a little easier when guys are hitting the ball."
Xavier Nady and Chad Tracy also homered for Washington, which saw Ross Detwiler struggle while allowing five runs over five innings. The Nationals (22-13), who lead the majors with a 2.77 ERA, have to like their chances of getting a stronger performance from Strasburg (3-0, 1.64 ERA).
Strasburg was sensational again his last time out, yielding one earned run, five hits and striking out a season-high 13 over six innings of Thursday's 4-2 win at Pittsburgh.
"When the stuff's working like tonight, you've got to go out there and just throw it, and it doesn't really matter what you throw," said Strasburg, who's never faced the Padres.
Limiting opponents to a .195 average, the right-hander has fanned 51 and walked just 10 over seven starts spanning 44 frames. His 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings rank second in the NL behind teammate Gio Gonzalez's 10.8.
Strasburg seems to have another favorable matchup against the Padres. San Diego has dropped 10 of 13 on the road, where it's hitting just .189 with runners in scoring position following a 2-for-11 effort Monday.
The Padres will look to get back on track behind Anthony Bass (1-4, 3.23), who had a hard time overcoming some bad defense behind him in Wednesday's 6-2 loss to Colorado.
The right-hander allowed one run through five frames before giving up four unearned in the sixth after shortstop Andy Parrino committed an error with one out. He scattered a career-worst nine hits over 5 2-3 but earned high praise from manager Bud Black.
"He's mixing pitches. Earlier and even last year, you saw a lot of fastball around the zone, erratic," Black said. "But now, he's pitching, which is great to see."
Bass has surrendered three earned runs or fewer in all but one of his six starts while fanning 38 in 35 innings. Tuesday marks his first appearance against the Nationals.
Just two days after Washington lost Wilson Ramos to a torn ACL, fellow catcher Sandy Leon suffered a high right ankle sprain in a collision at home plate and had to be removed in the fourth inning of his big league debut Monday. He's headed to the disabled list and Carlos Maldonado is likely to be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse.
"It's tough seeing Ramos go down the other night, then when Sandy gets here - you hate seeing a guy go down, let alone in his big league debut," Detwiler said.
The Nationals have taken six of seven from the Padres while limiting them to 12 runs.