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WSH@ATL: Strasburg exits due to heat-related issues

It was a disappointing outcome for the Nationals the last time they played the Rockies. Looking to pad its record against struggling Colorado, Washington was instead undone by unusually bad starting pitching in the thin air and left town with a split series.

The two teams will meet again, this time in Washington, for the final series before the All-Star break.

Right-hander Stephen Strasburg, Friday's starter, has lost two consecutive games. The Rockies pegged him for three runs on June 25, then 106-degree heat in Atlanta forced him out of his most recent start, on June 30, after three innings.

It was the first time since June 2010 that he lost consecutive starts.

"I expected a lot more out of myself," said Strasburg, who received three IVs of saline solution in the clubhouse after he exited the game against the Braves. "By no means was I going out there thinking I wasn't prepared for it."

Strasburg, a native of Southern California, has pitched in triple-digit temperature in two consecutive starts, and it might become three on Friday, with the high in Washington projected to be 102 degrees.

"I haven't talked to the medical staff, but he's going in the night game. That's good," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "But we'll be drinking a lot of water. I don't think we'll be having any transfusions or anything. Unless I need one."

Drew Pomeranz will take the mound for the Rockies. The fifth overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Pomeranz was sent to Colorado from Cleveland in the blockbuster trade for Ubaldo Jimenez last summer. After a lengthy stint in Triple-A Colorado Springs, Pomeranz spun six innings of two-hit ball in a start against the Padres on Sunday but was saddled with the loss.

"[Pomeranz] actually put on a clinic, as far as I'm concerned, on pitching inside and pitching effectively inside," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "I don't know how many bats he broke, but if I were to guess, it would be a half-dozen. He looked different than he did earlier."

The Rockies have lost four of their last six and haven't won a series since June 1-3, against the Dodgers.

Nationals: Colorado altitude has boosted hitting aptitude
Since June 25, the beginning of a four-game series in Colorado, the Nationals' offense has been red-hot, averaging a little more than five runs a game -- one run above their season average.

Four games against the Rockies, whose starting pitching staff ranks last in the Majors in ERA, helped boost the collective confidence of the offense, as did hitting in Coors Field, which is playing as it did in the pre-humidor days.

Rockies: First half provided something to build on
The Rockies are on pace to lose 100 games, which would constitute the worst season in franchise history. Despite the disappointments, manager Jim Tracy has been able to take away some positives from the first half of the season.

"No. 1, the continued progress of [rookie catcher] Wilin Rosario factors in," Tracy said. "In the case of Dexter Fowler in center field, can he offensively sustain what he's done up to this point? Tyler Colvin, I must continue to find opportunities for him to play and increase the number of at-bats, and see how it plays out from first half to second half."

But Tracy knows, as well as anybody, that no amount of offense can consistently make up for what has been a Majors-worst rotation.

"If we don't solely focus on the win-loss record, there are a lot of things that have taken place that are good, that you want to think you can hold onto moving forward," he said. "But out there on that [mound], that's got to get squared away."

Worth noting
• With their 6-5 win over the Giants on Thursday, the Nationals moved to a season-high 16 games over .500.

• Washington's Bryce Harper finished third in the National League Final Vote, behind St. Louis' David Freese and Atlanta's Michael Bourn. Washington will be represented at the All-Star Game by pitchers Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez and shortstop Ian Desmond -- the largest contingent of Nationals at a Midsummer Classic since the franchise moved from Montreal in 2005.

• Colorado first baseman Todd Helton did not start Thursday's game against the Cardinals. The 38-year-old didn't play Sunday or Monday, either, citing pain in his right hip.

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