The San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals are both in second place and time is starting to wind down.
Both clubs are currently out of the postseason and start a four-game series Thursday night when the Nationals visit San Francisco for the first time since last year's playoffs.
San Francisco (60-53) is 3 1/2 games out in the NL West and Washington (58-55) faces the same deficit in the East. They meet at AT&T Park for the first time since the Giants ended the Nationals' season with a 3-2 victory in Game 4 of a division series last year.
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Ryan Vogelsong (7-8, 4.26 ERA) started that game for the winners, allowing one run in 5 2-3 innings but left without a decision. He is 1-2 with a 7.09 ERA in six regular-season outings versus the Nationals, yielding one run in four innings before he was ejected from a 3-1 loss July 5.
The right-hander made his first start since July 11 on Friday and gave up three runs over four innings in a 7-3 loss at the Chicago Cubs. Vogelsong is in the rotation for the injured Mike Leake.
Ian Desmond is 5 for 14 against Vogelsong including the postseason, Bryce Harper is 3 for 11 and Jayson Werth is 3 for 10.
Washington figures to be eager to oppose Vogelsong after facing the duo of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in shutout losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers the last two days.
Harper sat out a game due to a sore left knee and returned and went 0 for 4 on Wednesday as his 10-game hitting streak in which he batted .361 ended. He has hit solo homers in his last three games in San Francisco, including both in the playoffs.
The Nationals will start Stephen Strasburg (6-5, 4.76), who is 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA in six regular-season starts versus the Giants including 3 2-3 innings of one-hit ball before he exited with a left oblique strain in a 9-3 rout July 4. He's 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three outings at AT&T Park.
The right-hander, who lost the division series opener at home to San Francisco, pitched for the first time since that July outing Saturday and allowed one run in seven innings with a season-high 12 strikeouts and no walks to earn a 6-1 win over Colorado.
"He's one of the best in baseball when he's out there doing his thing, painting 98 on the black, reaching 99 sometimes," Harper said.
Brandon Crawford is 5 for 13 off Strasburg, including the postseason, while Buster Posey is 5 for 17 and Hunter Pence is 4 for 16.
Those are the hitters the Giants will have to count on since they will likely be missing left fielder Nori Aoki along with center fielder Angel Pagan (patella tendinitis) and second baseman Joe Panik (lower back inflammation), who are already on the disabled list.
Aoki, hit in the head by a pitch Sunday in Chicago, left Wednesday's 2-0 defeat to Houston after four innings because of dizziness. He will be evaluated for a concussion.
"We'll know more tomorrow but he showed symptoms,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ''My guess is we'll have to be careful here."
The Giants have dropped five of six and have totaled three runs in their last three games.