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Rockies-Nationals preview

WASHINGTON -- It will be tale of two pitchers when the first-place Washington Nationals begin a home series on Friday against the Colorado Rockies.

The starting pitcher for the Nationals will be veteran lefty Gio Gonzalez, who will be looking for the 100th win of his career.

He has very little track record the past few years against Colorado hitters. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies is hitting .250 in just eight at-bats against the Washington pitcher.

The lefty from the Miami area will be opposed by Rockies right-hander Jeff Hoffman (0-1, 13.50), who will be seeking his first career win in his second MLB start.

Hoffman, a product of East Carolina University, made his MLB debut Saturday and gave up seven runs in four-plus innings against the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs had seven hits and just one walk while Hoffman had two strikeouts.

"I wasn't getting ahead as much as I should have been and that obviously opened up a whole world of opportunities for them," Hoffman told reporters after the game. "When you are not getting ahead, and you are facing guys in the box who know what they are doing, they are going to find holes. That's what they did tonight, they found holes with everything."

After facing the team with the best record in the majors, Hoffman will face a squad with the second-best mark in the National League on Friday. He will be the second East Carolina product to dress in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park after pitcher Mike Wright of the Orioles was here on Thursday and finished the game on the mound for the Orioles as Washington won 4-0.

The Nationals had lost four in a row before beating Baltimore, which had won the last six games over the past two seasons between the teams.

Washington right-hander Max Scherzer came up big as he went eight scoreless innings to beat the Orioles.

"First and foremost I knew I needed to pitch deep into the game tonight. Our bullpen has been taxed. That was a huge deal to get into the eighth and finish the eighth," Scherzer said. "They have a lot of guys who have a lot of thump in their lineup. I really came up with a game plan of how to pitch against them. I had a great game plan."

Another encouraging sign for the Nationals is that Bryce Harper had two more hits Thursday, lifting his average to .251. He had a big two-run double in the eighth.

"He's warm. He is not hot yet but he is getting there," said Dusty Baker, the Washington manager. "He is returning to April form."

Former Washington Senator slugger Frank Howard, a long-time resident of Northern Virginia, will be honored before Friday's game as he takes a spot in the ring of honor at Nationals Park.