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ATL@WSH: Strasburg strikes out eight over six frames

Stephen Strasburg and Christian Friedrich couldn't have had more opposite professional careers, but at least they can relate on their recent distaste for the Brewers.

Strasburg surrendered a season-high seven earned runs over 4 2/3 innings in last Wednesday's start in Milwaukee. After rejoining the Rockies' rotation for the first time since 2012, both of Friedrich's starts this season have come against the Brewers. His 10 innings pitched against the Crew have resulted in 16 hits and nine earned runs.

The good news is, both men see reasons for optimism heading into Tuesday's faceoff.

Strasburg and Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty believe they've identified and corrected a mechanical flaw that was causing Strasburg to rush his delivery.

Strasburg hopes that will fix his recent issues of leaving the ball up in the zone.

"[My four-seam fastball was] not really keeping the angle and not really pounding it down, and I think it's just something that I kind of focus in on mechanically to get back to hitting the spots a little bit better and not having it tail over the plate" Strasburg said.

As for Friedrich, the sight of a few left-handers in the lineup should allow him to regain some confidence. The Brewers' pop comes from a powerful quartet of right-handers: Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Jonathan Lucroy. And in both starts against Friedrich, Milwaukee was able to field two lefty-free lineups.

Two of the Nationals' best power hitters, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche, bat left-handed, which has Friedrich breathing a sigh of relief.

"If you have an all right-handed lineup, what can you take advantage of?" Friedrich asked. "But I'd say it's nice to see a couple lefties in there. Against righties, you don't really have anything running away from guys beside your two-seamer and changeup. So it's good."

Nationals: Harper's return marks full lineup
Harper returned to the Nationals' lineup Monday night against the Rockies after missing 57 games because of a torn left thumb ligament.

And for the first time since Opening Day, March 31, Washington put its full team on the field.

"It's nice to have everybody back and get to write the names in a lineup that we had on Opening Day once again," manager Matt Williams said. "That's a good thing."

Injuries plagued the Nationals from the outset of the team's 2014 campaign, starting when Wilson Ramos suffered a left hamate fracture in the first game of the season. Ramos missed 32 games, and in his absence, both Ryan Zimmerman (right thumb fracture) and Harper endured long-term injuries.

With everyone now back in the lineup, the Nationals, who trailed the Braves by a game entering Monday, are poised to take over the National League East -- a division left largely open through the first half of the season.

"If not now, then when?" center fielder Denard Span said. "You don't want to wait to the last minute like we did last year."

Rockies: Bettis back, hoping to make most of chance
Righty reliever Chad Bettis' last two opportunities with the Rockies were not big -- and he didn't take advantage of either.

Bettis made the Opening Day roster, struggled early and was sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs in late April. The first time he was recalled, he gave up four runs in two innings of a 7-4 Rockies victory over the Mets on May 1, and he went back down shortly thereafter. His second promotion lasted one rough game -- three runs and four hits in one inning of a 13-10 loss to the Braves on June 10.

The Rockies recalled Bettis again Monday when they placed right-handed starter Jhoulys Chacin on the disabled list with a right shoulder issue. With lefty Boone Logan close to returning from the disabled list from an elbow injury, it's possible this trip to the Majors could be short. But who knows what can happen if Bettis performs well?

"I'm not thinking about that now; it's about controlling what I can, going out there and making my pitches," said Bettis, who is 0-1 with a 10.05 ERA in 13 Major League appearances and 2-2 with a 1.72 ERA and three saves in 15 appearances for Colorado Springs.

Bettis said he worked on being more dependable while in Triple-A.

"I feel better mentally and I'm more consistent with my delivery," Bettis said. "It always comes down to executing your pitches. The more times you do that, the better your odds are."

Worth noting
• With Franklin Morales taking Chacin's spot in the rotation, the Rockies now field a five-man rotation compiled of all left-handers. The last team to do that was the White Sox in August 2013.

• Harper finished his first game since April 25, 1-for-3 with a walk. He plated the Nationals' first run with a two-out single in the fourth and scored in the their five-run sixth.

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