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WSH@CHC: Gio strikes out six in his Nationals debut

After lackluster debuts with the Nationals and Reds, respectively, pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos will both be seeking their first victory in their new uniforms this season when they square off Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park in Washington's home opener.

Gonzalez settled for a no-decision after allowing four runs on seven hits in just 3 2/3 innings of work against the Cubs on April 7. Latos didn't fare much better against the Marlins the same day, getting saddled with the loss after lasting 4 2/3 innings, also allowing four runs off seven base knocks.

With the jitters of his Reds debut now out of the way, Latos is hoping to return to the form that helped him post a 3.20 ERA in 62 starts with the Padres over the last two seasons.

"I'm a little sick to my stomach," Latos said after his debut. "I was trying to be too fine. New ballclub, new scenery. I was just trying to do too much. I wanted the first impression to be good. I was trying to be too perfect. It backfired and went the opposite way."

As for Gonzalez, his response to his first start with the Nationals was slightly different. Though he would surely like to alter his pitching line, the 2011 All-Star was happy with the way he threw the ball against the Cubs.

"I felt I was pounding the strike zone, making contact," Gonzalez said. "I was making those guys swing the bat. If I had to go back, I wouldn't change a thing. I felt I was in it. There were some good hits that landed when they needed a run."

One good sign for Latos -- and not so much for Gonzalez -- is that the Reds' offense seemed to bust out of its mini slump in the team's series finale against the Cardinals on Wednesday. After recording just seven combined hits and one run apiece in the first two games, the Reds broke out with 14 hits in the 4-3 walk-off victory.

Another thing working in Latos' favor is his 3-1 career record against the Nationals, including a 2-0 mark with a 1.42 ERA at Nationals Park. As Reds manager Dusty Baker pointed out, though, this isn't the same Nationals' team from years past. Not to mention Washington will be eager to start its 2012 home slate with a victory.

"They've got a good team," Baker said. "They went out and spent a lot of money, plus they've had high first-round Draft picks about five, six years in a row -- similar to the Tampa Bay Rays. The only way to screw that up is to not draft properly."

Reds: Votto finds stroke in series finale
First baseman Joey Votto posted his first multi-hit game of the young season in Wednesday's series finale against the Cardinals, going 4-for-5 and scoring the game-winning run. In doing so, Votto more than doubled his hit total from the first five games combined.

After going just 3-for-16 (.188) with six strikeouts in the Reds' first five contests, Votto's four-hit performance, which included two doubles and an RBI, raised his average to .333.

"They pitched him differently last year than the year before," Baker said before Wednesday's game. "You get an MVP behind your name, they're going to pitch you differently. ... It's just a matter of combating it. He'll figure it out. We certainly need him."

Nationals: Extent of injuries still unclear for Storen, Morse
As of Wednesday, the Nationals were still in the dark regarding the severity of outfielder Michael Morse's injury.

Morse, who was originally targeting Thursday's home opener for his return, suffered a setback Monday while playing for Class A Hagerstown, leaving the game in the seventh inning against Lexington because of a strained lat (back) muscle.

The latest step in the recovery process involved sending Morse's most recent test results to Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday for further evaluation. Andrews is the same doctor who checked Drew Storen's elbow during Spring Training. Storen is experiencing elbow discomfort, but the team still doesn't know whether the closer has bone chips in the elbow or needs Tommy John surgery.

Worth noting
• Washington outscored the Reds, 18-5, over the final four meetings -- a four-game sweep for the Nats -- from Sept. 12-15 last season.

• The Nationals have lost their home opener in each of the last three seasons.

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