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Nationals hope latest young arm up to task vs. Rockies

The Stephen Strasburg era in Washington ended at the beginning of this season, but now the Nationals have another young pitcher to take his place.

And he looks like he’s ready for the role after just three major league starts.

DJ Herz struck out 13 Miami batters to earn his first win on Saturday and he goes for his second when he faces the host Colorado Rockies in Denver on Friday night to open a three-game series. Herz (1-1, 3.77 ERA) will go against Colorado veteran Dakota Hudson (2-9, 4.89).

Herz made his major league debut with a loss against the New York Mets on June 4 then labored through 4 1/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves in his next outing before tossing a gem to beat the Marlins for his first victory. Herz allowed one hit and no walks in six scoreless innings and left after 84 pitches.

Now he ventures on the road for the first time — and at a ballpark that favors hitters. He will need to continue to stay calm and focused, an issue he dealt with in the minors. He walked 29 batters in 36 innings in his nine Triple-A starts but a commitment to slowing down and breathing exercises has helped at the start of his big-league career.

“I like to work really fast. I like to move. I like to get the ball and get back on the mound,” Herz told the Washington Post. “And it works sometimes. When things are going good, it works well. But other times, we’ve got to be conscious of: ‘Hey, we need to slow down. We just need to take a second, breathe, look at the clock, slow it down then get back into that groove.'”

He will need that discipline when he takes the mound at Coors Field. The Rockies scored 24 four runs in their just-completed four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and can get rolling, especially at home.

Ryan McMahon has been one of the catalysts over the past week. He has six multi-hit games over his past eight games, including three straight against Los Angeles. He hit a towering solo home run in Colorado’s 5-3 loss Thursday and is a strong candidate to represent the Rockies at the All-Star Game next month.

He also had a delayed steal of home against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night and has been the subject of trade rumors ahead of the deadline.

As well as McMahon has been going of late, the opposite is true of Hudson, whose nine losses are the most in the National League this season and tied for the most in the majors. It took him eight starts to get his first win of the season, though some of his problems can be traced to run support.

In his past two starts, he has allowed a total of four earned runs in 12 innings but walked away with two losses.

“He threw great, and he deserved a better fate for sure,” Rockies manager Bud Black said after Hudson’s start against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Things might turn around Friday night. In eight career appearances — three starts — against the Nationals, he is 3-1 with a 2.74 ERA.

–Field Level Media

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