Johnson liked the way he threw vs. Dodgers

It has not been an easy season for Nationals right-handed pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, who was pitching well in spring training and was set to make the team as the No. 5 starter. Then he fell and injured his left hamstring on an awkward play near first base during a March 15 game against the New York Yankees, and nothing was ever the same.

Wang returned in relief May 25, moved into the rotation for four starts and then was banished to the bullpen. Eventually, a hip injury began hampering his mechanics. After spending 10 weeks rehabbing that injury, Wang gets another chance Sunday, when he will make a spot start against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Up next
Brewers at Nationals
Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.89 ERA) vs. Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.91 ERA)
When » Friday 7:05 p.m.
Where » Nationals Park, Washington
Radio » 106.7 the Fan,
WFED 1500, WHFS 1580
The last time the Nats and Brewers met, Washington was just embarking on its most torrid stretch of the season. Despite getting shut out in Game 2 of a four-game series at Miller Park, the Nats scored 23 runs in the other three games and took the series. Things might not be so easy this time around as Milwaukee has fought its way back into National League wild-card contention. This wraparound four-game series at Nationals Park sees the Brewers 2? games behind St. Louis for that final spot after rallying for a stunning 9-7 win at Pittsburgh on Thursday. They have 13 games left.

Washington manager Davey Johnson could have gone with reliever Craig Stammen, a former starter who can pitch four or five innings if needed. But Johnson likes how Stammen has taken to his middle relief role, and starting him Sunday would take him out of the bullpen for two days before that start and maybe two days afterward.

And Wang helped his cause with 2 1/3 innings against the Dodgers in relief of a struggling John Lannan on Wednesday. He gave up just two hits, allowed one inherited runner to score on a wild pitch and another who wouldn't have save for a blown umpire's call. But it was the way he threw that caught Johnson's attention.

"Chien-Ming, I like who he is, I like what he's all about and I like his competitiveness," Johnson said. "And he's been in big games. And to me all these are big games."

Wang threw 32 pitches against Los Angeles. He induced five ground balls -- always a good sign for him -- and just three fly balls. He held his own against some strong left-handed hitters in the Dodgers' lineup and Milwaukee, the opponent Sunday, has few lefties of note that could give Wang trouble. He even featured a nice curveball to go with his sinking fastball.

"I just want to follow their direction to me, and then if they want me to start I'll be really happy and then I'll get myself ready for it," Wang said after Wednesday's game.