Strasburg takes mound against Reds

( - Stephen Strasburg will try to halt his recent struggles on Friday night when the Washington Nationals begin a three-game set with the Cincinnati Reds.

In losing for the third time in four starts, Strasburg lasted just 3 2/3 innings versus the Philadelphia Phillies, shelled for six runs -- five earned -- on seven hits. He failed to make it out of the fourth inning for the third time this month and is just 3-5 on the year with a 6.50 earned run average.

"It's definitely something I've never experience before," said Strasburg about his struggles. "I think it's a test for me and I'm going to look at it that way. I'm not going to quit, I'm going to keep going and battle through this."

The right-hander has struggled over three prior starts against the Reds as well, going 1-1 with a 5.50 ERA.

Though winless over his past six starts, Reds hurler Anthony DeSclafani takes the mound tonight off an impressive outing last Saturday in Cleveland.

DeSclafani held the Indians to one run, three hits and a pair of walks over seven innings, striking out six in a game his club lost 2-1. The righty did not get a decision, leaving him 0-4 since his last win on April 20.

"I was just really happy to keep my team in the game," DeSclafani said. "Also, the defense played outstanding."

DeSclafani will make his first career start versus the Nationals having gone 2-4 with a 3.46 ERA this season. He has faced Washington three times prior in relief.

Both Strasburg and DeSclafani will be going up against two of the top home run hitters in the National League. Washington's Bryce Harper is tied for the major league lead with 18 home runs this season, while Todd Frazier of the Reds ranks second in the NL with 14 homers.

Both went deep in their respective games on Wednesday.

Harper's 13th longball in 19 games helped lead Washington to a 3-0 win over the Chicago Cubs. He drove in his MLB-leading 43rd run of the campaign and is batting a solid .331 on the year.

"I've seen a lot of great hitters, played with some really, really good ones, and the best ones are able to go opposite field with power," Nats starter Max Scherzer said of Harper.

Scherzer fanned 13, scattered five hits and walked just one over seven shutout innings to get the win on Wednesday. Danny Espinosa hit a solo shot and Ian Desmond posted three hits for the Nationals, who have won nine of their last 11 games.

Frazier hit his own solo homer on Wednesday, but it came in a 6-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies. The defeat came one day after Cincinnati used a 2-1 over the Rockies to snap a nine-game losing streak.

However, Mike Leake gave up six runs on nine hits, two homers and a pair of walks over five innings to fall in defeat on Wednesday.

Tucker Barnhart added a solo homer in the eighth inning to spark a three-run frame for the Reds that pulled them within two. However, Cincinnati could not pull off the comeback and held a team meeting following the setback.

"It was a very positive meeting," Reds catcher Brayan Pena told Cincinnati's website. "Hopefully [Thursday], we can enjoy the day off and be ready for Friday. Right now, things are not going our way. It's no secret. But we have to be positive. We have to continue to go out there and grind, and we have to continue to trust in our ability, and hopefully things will turn around. We know that we have the talent to do so. We need to go out on the field and prove it."

The Nats and Reds split six meetings last season.