Nationals-Pirates Preview

Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is as upbeat as anyone on his team, but even he is feeling a little defensive about the state of the club.

Amid declining home attendance and backlash from fans in public forums, the Pirates (41-48) ended a five-game losing streak Sunday with a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Pittsburgh was outscored 51-15 during its losing streak and is 1-2 so far on an 11-game homestand leading into the All-Star break. Next up are the Washington Nationals (45-44), who swept a four-game series against Pittsburgh earlier this season.

“We like to win. A lot of people think we come here every day to lose a game, and it’s not true,” said Cervelli, who came off the concussion disabled list Sunday and doubled and scored. “This baseball game is a hard game. We’re going to put in the effort to win more games.”

Asked about a tough week ahead with Washington and Arizona coming to town, Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle bristled.

“We just had a difficult week,” he said. “Our guys all year long have bounced back after some tough games, individually and collectively.”

Washington’s week was better, but hardly ideal. The Nationals got swept by Boston in three games before scoring 35 runs in winning the first three games of a weekend series against Miami. They failed to sweep, getting pounded by the Marlins 10-2 on Sunday.

In the series opener Monday at PNC Park, Pirates right-hander Ivan Nova (4-6, 4.48 ERA) is scheduled to face right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 5.52).

In Nova’s most recent start, he gave up a team-record five homers Tuesday in an 8-3 loss at Los Angeles. He lasted five innings, allowing seven runs and nine hits.

“It’s not fun when you’re giving up that many homers,” Nova said. “Sometimes you give up that many runs, and you don’t feel that bad. Giving up five homers, it’s just too much.

“I was behind in the count all the time. I feel good physically. I wasn’t able to throw the quality strikes that I needed.”

That was his first start since he came off the disabled list because of a finger strain. Since he has been back, he is 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA in five starts.

Against Washington, Nova is 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA in four career starts, including a 9-3 road loss on May 2 when he gave up eight runs (five earned) in 4 2/3 innings.

The Nationals’ Rodriguez was promoted from Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday and will make a spot start with Eric Fedde (shoulder) and Stephen Strasburg (shoulder) on the disabled list.

Rodriguez, 24, is a 6-foot-6, 232-pound rookie who has made four appearances (two starts this season) with 13 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings. He pitched a scoreless inning in relief Thursday against Miami.

“He’s got electric stuff,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said earlier this season.

In his second and most recent start on June 24 against Philadelphia, Rodriguez gave up four runs and five hits in four innings, and seemingly was adversely affected by a rain delay.

In his first start on June 19 against Baltimore, he gave up two homers among five hits and four runs in five innings.