Strasburg and Hanson to start Tuesday night

The two top young pitchers in the National League East take the mound against each other Tuesday night when the Nationals open a six-game homestand against the Atlanta Braves.

Washington rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg, 22, and Atlanta's Tommy Hanson, 23, should see each other often over the next several years. Strasburg has been excellent since his promotion from the minor leagues last month. Hanson, meanwhile, is adjusting to his first full major league season after a brilliant debut last summer.

The Nats (42-57) are coming off a frustrating 3-7 road trip to start the second half of the Major League Baseball season and are again in last place in the NL East. Atlanta (57-41) has a healthy 4 1/2 game lead in the division on second-place Philadelphia (53-46).

Nats notesBraves @ NatsWhere » Nationals ParkWhen » 7:05 p.m.TV/Radio » MASN HD; 1500 AM, XM 183» Nats rookie Stephen Strasburg has yet to face the same team twice in his nine big-league starts. That will change when he pitches against Atlanta on Tuesday. » Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson is 2-0 in five career starts against Washington with a 2.94 ERA and 35 strikeouts. » The Nats still must decide on a fifth starter for this weekend’s series against the Phillies with Luis Atilano (elbow) and J.D. Martin (back) both on the disabled list.

Strasburg is 5-2 overall with a 2.32 ERA. This will be his 10th big-league start and second appearance against the Braves. Strasburg is expected to make another six or seven starts in August before reaching his innings cap for the season of around 160 -- about 100 of those in the majors. Hanson was 11-4 in his first season, throwing 127 2/3 innings for Atlanta. He had a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts in 2009.

This year is a little different story for Hanson, though. His opponents' batting average against is up to .272 and his ERA has risen to 4.12 as the league has adjusted. It's a preview of what Strasburg will have to go through in 2011. Though his numbers are off, Hanson is still tough to hit. He has 114 strikeouts -- two less than last season in 14 fewer innings. Strasburg so far has 75 strikeouts and just 15 walks with a 1.07 WHIP.

After a nice 20-15 start, the Nats have faded since May 14 with a 22-42 record. The most recent road trip epitomized their problems. They couldn't score against the Florida Marlins, losing two games despite allowing four runs the entire series. They split a four-game series in Cincinnati and then were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers, losing the first two games by a combined three runs.