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TEX@HOU: Lewis fans eight over 5 2/3 scoreless

Despite the Nationals' team-wide offensive struggles in May, center fielder Denard Span has continued to improve.

Heading into a three-game home series with the Rangers starting Friday night, Washington sports a .231 batting average for the month. But during that same stretch, Span has batted .283 with a .315 on-base percentage.

"I've been grinding," Span said, "coming to the field every day with a positive mindset, and just trying to turn things around for myself and for the team."

Colby Lewis will make his ninth start for the Rangers this season against the Nationals in the series opener. The right-hander has only faced three hitters on the Nationals' roster in his career: Span, Jayson Werth and Kevin Frandsen. Span has two hits in eight at bats against Lewis, who is 8-4 with 3.22 ERA in Interleague Play since signing with the Rangers in 2010.

Span has been a major catalyst for Nationals' victories over the last several weeks, but the leadoff man has also contributed to the team's losing record during the month. In Washington's nine May wins, Span is batting .487 with 19 hits. In the team's 15 losses, however, Span is batting .164 with just 11 hits.

"Obviously it's in the back of my mind, it's in the back of all of our minds when we're not winning," Span said. "But I try to do whatever I can to get on base. I try and do whatever I can to simplify my job as much as possible."

Span went 2-for-6 and reached on an error in the Nationals' 8-5 loss to the Marlins in 10 innings on Wednesday night.

"I take my job serious," Span said. "I truly believe that my job as a leadoff hitter is to set the tone. And I do feel like the times when I do come out and get on base or set the tone right that usually the team does follow suit behind me."

Rangers: Darvish should be ready for Sunday start
Yu Darvish missed his last start on Tuesday with stiffness in his neck, but the Rangers are hopeful that he will be ready to pitch Sunday against the Nationals. He has been able to throw on flat ground since Tuesday.

Darvish will have another test on Friday. He is expected to take batting practice to prepare for having to hit on Sunday. Darvish is 1-for-6 as a hitter in the Majors, but manager Ron Washington isn't relishing having him swing the bat.

"Hopefully every time he comes up there, it will be in a situation where I can bunt him," Washington said.

Nationals: Strasburg looks to continue solid stretch
Stephen Strasburg will take the mound Friday against the Rangers for his 12th start of the season.

The hard-throwing right-hander has compiled a 2-2 record over his past seven starts dating back to April 20. In each of those outings, Strasburg has pitched at least six innings and surrendered three or fewer earned runs, lowering his ERA from 6.00 to 3.42.

Strasburg has also averaged just fewer than seven strikeouts per game during the span. His 81 strikeouts on the season rank sixth in the Major Leagues.

Worth noting
• The Nationals' 8-5 defeat at the hands of the Marlins on Wednesday night marked only the second time all season Washington has lost when scoring four or more runs.

• Lewis is the Rangers' leader since 1997 in most at-bats, hits and RBIs by a pitcher. He is 5-for-19 with four RBIs. The last time he hit in an Interleague game was May 20, 2012, when he was 2-for-4 with two RBIs in a 6-1 win over the Astros.

• Alex Rios has a 12-game hitting streak, longest by the Rangers this year.

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