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Orioles on deck: Colby Rasmus returns, plus what to watch Thursday at Nationals

Orioles (21-51) vs. Nationals (39-33)

Where: Nationals Park, Washington

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First pitch: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: MASN2/105.7 The Fan

Starting pitchers: Orioles RHP Kevin Gausman (3-6, 4.48 ERA) vs. Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (10-3, 2.06 ERA)

What to watch

1. Heating up? The Orioles have won two of three games since their season-long nine-game slide, and the question is whether this is the start of sustained improved play. They won with the bats Sunday and the arms Wednesday, while blowing a big lead to lose in between. A win Thursday would give the Orioles just their third road series win of the season and second this month.

2. Gausman. Kevin Gausman has put together back-to-back solid outings for the first time since his run of seven straight good starts that ended in the second week of May. The right-hander has allowed five runs with 13 strikeouts and three walks in 13 1/3 innings over his past two games, bringing his ERA down to 4.48. He has a mixed record against the Nats, having gone 3-1 in four starts while posting a 4.70 ERA. He has struggled to a 9.00 ERA in two career starts at Nationals Park, but had a quality start his last time there in 2014.

3. Scherzer. The Orioles helped get Max Scherzer back on a roll the last time they met, as he has a 1.86 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 29 innings over his past four starts. That run began with 12 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings against the Orioles on May 30, one start after he allowed a season-high four earned runs with a season-low four strikeouts. Because of the Nats’ offensive struggles, Scherzer enters Thursday a hard-luck loser in two straight starts. He’ll be facing a team he has owned — much like the rest of baseball. Adam Jones (.350), Chris Davis (.316) and Danny Valencia (.250) are the only Orioles with batting averages above .150 against Scherzer. Manny Machado has had difficulty against him, batting .080 in 25 at-bats. Davis remains on the bench and Colby Rasmus returns to the lineup for the first time since April 6 to face the Nats’ Cy Young winner. Joey Rickard was optioned to make room.

Orioles lineup

LF Jace Peterson

CF Adam Jones

SS Manny Machado

1B Mark Trumbo

2B Jonathan Schoop

RF Colby Rasmus

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C Caleb Joseph

3B Steve Wilkerson

P Kevin Gausman

Nationals lineup

RF Bryce Harper

SS Trea Turner

3B Anthony Rendon

LF Juan Soto

1B Mark Reynolds

CF Michael A. Taylor

2B Wilmer Difo

C Pedro Severino

P Max Scherzer

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