Strasburg was in command for each of his five April starts, going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA, while never allowing more than two runs in any start. Strasburg hasn't allowed a home run in his last 11 starts, a streak that dates to his final start of the 2010 campaign.
The only lingering effect from Strasburg's Tommy John surgery in 2010 seems to be on manager Davey Johnson's approach to how to use his 23-year-old ace most effectively. Strasburg is on a 160-inning limit in his first full season since the surgery and, therefore, hasn't pitched more than seven innings in a start this season.
"Stras was throwing so good, he could have gone further, but he might be out of innings by the All-Star break if I let him go to what he is capable of going to," Johnson joked after Strasburg's last outing. "That's a cloud over me."
While Strasburg looks to avoid picking up his first loss on Friday, Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick is just hoping to be part of a team victory before Cliff Lee returns and takes his spot back in the rotation. Kendrick has lost his only two starts in Lee's place, and each of his prior four relief appearances came in eventual Phillies losses -- though he didn't factor into any of those decisions.
Kendrick was shelled in his first start, giving up seven runs off 11 hits in just three innings, while tallying just one strikeout. In his last outing, however, the right-hander limited the Cubs to just two earned runs over six innings and struck out seven, but he was saddled with the loss in the 5-1 defeat.
"It's the battle of the aces," Kendrick joked when asked about squaring off with Strasburg. "Obviously it's big because it's a division rival. But I'm not going to put too much on it. It's still another game. So far, Strasburg has been pitching well.
"I know it's a cliche and I know I say it all the time, but I just want to give us a chance to win -- keep us in the game. That's my job. It's going to be fun. I'm sure it will be a good atmosphere."
Phillies: Halladay expected back on Friday
Phillies ace Roy Halladay left the club following Wednesday's loss to attend to a family matter, but he is expected to be back with the team on Friday night.
Halladay had informed manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee on Tuesday that he needed to leave. Halladay allowed eight runs for just the second time in his career before leaving Wednesday night. The Phillies said that Halladay is healthy.
Nationals: Harper up to third in order
Nearly a week into being called up to the Majors, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper hit in the three hole for Thursday's game against the D-backs. He went 1-for-3 in the game, including what proved to be a game-winning RBI double in the sixth inning in a 2-1 Nats win.
Hitting seventh in the other five games he has played in, Harper is 6-for-16 (.375) with three RBIs and four doubles this season.
Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche was scratched from Thursday's lineup against the Diamondbacks because of right oblique soreness. He is listed as day to day.
Strasburg's 11 consecutive starts without allowing a home run is the third longest in franchise history, and most since Ken Hill went 12 straight in 1993. Only Steve Rogers (19), Bill Gullickson (14) and Hill went longer.
The 11 straight homerless starts is also the longest active streak in the Majors.
The Phillies started 6-1 against the Nationals last season, only to drop nine of the final 11 meetings to lose the season series, 10-8. It marked the first time since 2006 that Washington won the head-to-head matchup.
Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed right shoulder, is scheduled to begin hitting off a tee on Friday and could return early next week.