Harper almost assuredly will be in the lineup when Trevor Cahill takes the mound for the D-backs on Friday -- the pitcher Harper faced in his home debut on May 1. Though Cahill stifled Harper, keeping him hitless in three at-bats with one strikeout, Harper finished the three-game series with the D-backs 4-for-10 with two RBIs and three doubles.
But in hitting just .176 (18-for-102) since the All-Star break, Harper's batting average has fallen to .251. He'll be looking for a fresh start while the Nats look to build on their four-game lead in the National League East. The D-backs enter the series coming off a series split with the Pirates after their 6-3 win on Thursday.
"I'm not frustrated at all. I think I've been having good [at-bats]," Harper said. "The only thing I think I'm frustrated about is [letting down] the other 24 guys in my clubhouse. I think going into those ABs and being in crucial situations and having 3-0, 3-1 counts and trying to battle as best I can, then things happen."
Strasburg, meanwhile, continues his creep toward an abbreviated end to his season. Whether his innings limit is a strict 160 innings or not, Strasburg heads to the mound at Chase Field for the first time in his career with 127 1/3 innings already in the books this season. The 24-year-old right-hander enters the series tied for third in the Majors with 160 strikeouts and is in 15th with a 2.97 ERA.
But even as Strasburg's numbers have blossomed as he continues his projected career path from young phenom to franchise ace, consistency has been hard to find in his third year in the big leagues.
Strasburg's last start was a gem, a six-inning scoreless outing in which he allowed only three hits while striking out six and walking one in a 4-1 win against the Marlins on Sunday. But in his previous start, he lasted only four innings in an 8-0 loss to the Phillies, allowing six runs on eight hits.
"I'm just still learning how to pitch and call a game, really pick up on little things that happen in a game that can really be used to your advantage," Strasburg said.
"Sometimes you've just got to get a feel for a game, and you give up a couple runs early. The big thing is to give your guys a chance to put some runs on the board and keep it close."
Nationals: Morse has baseball's longest hitting streak
After the Marlins' Jose Reyes had his 26-game hitting streak snapped on Thursday, Michael Morse's 18-game streak became baseball's longest. Morse went 2-for-3 with two homers in Thursday night's 5-0 win over the Astros, continuing the recent tear the heart of the Nats' lineup has enjoyed.
D-backs: Johnson off to hot start in Arizona
Since his trade from the Astros on July 29, Chris Johnson has settled into a D-backs uniform quite nicely. In his 10 games since the trade, Johnson is batting .342 (13-for-38). Johnson will be making his home debut at Chase Field.
"I think he's comfortable in Arizona," manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's just had a great start for us. He's shown he's very strong. He's played great for us."
The D-backs will hit the road for six straight after the series against the Nationals.
The Nats, who are 37-21 on the road, have won 16 of their last 21 road contests, giving them the best road winning percentage (.638) in the Majors.