Nationals-Pirates Preview

Stephen Strasburg hasn’t faced the Pittsburgh Pirates since his

sensational major league debut for the Washington Nationals nearly

two years ago.

While the lights won’t be as bright Thursday night at PNC Park,

Strasburg looks to help the Nationals avoid a seventh consecutive

road loss and a three-game sweep at the hands of the Pirates.

All eyes were on Strasburg on June 8, 2010, when he took the

mound for his much-anticipated first big-league start. It’s safe to

say the highly touted right-hander exceeded the sky-high

expectations, striking out a career-high 14 in seven dominating

innings of a 5-2 victory over Pittsburgh (14-16).

Strasburg, who missed most of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John

surgery since last facing the Pirates, now looks to slow down a

Pirates team on the verge of its first three-game winning streak

since last July 17-19. One night after prevailing 5-4 on Rod

Barajas’ two-run, walk-off homer, manager Clint Hurdle’s club held

on for a 4-2 victory Wednesday.

Andrew McCutchen matched a season high with four hits and left

the yard for the second time in as many days while the bullpen

allowed just one earned run over eight innings after starter Erik

Bedard exited early due to back spasms.

Washington, which has scored a combined 12 runs during its

six-game skid in opposing ballparks, hasn’t dropped seven in a row

on the road since June 15-28, 2010.

“I think guys are frustrated, not like we’re out of it by any

means but guys are frustrated because they know what we can do,”

Ian Desmond said. “We know we’re a good offensive ballclub.”

The Nationals, who are 5-1 when Strasburg (2-0, 1.66 ERA)

pitches this season, have to like their chances of getting back on

track behind their ace. Strasburg has limited opponents to a .187

average through his first six starts, fanning 38 in as many

innings.

He was, however, somewhat pedestrian in most recent outing,

yielding a season-high three runs – including a pair of solo homers

– over six innings of Friday’s 4-3, 11-inning win over

Philadelphia.

“I left a couple of pitches up. It’s an adjustment. It was just

one of those games where they made me pay for it,” Strasburg, who’s

stretch of 66 consecutive innings without surrendering a long ball

was snapped, told the team’s official website. “It was just a

couple of pitches. It could have gone differently, whether they

decided to swing at them or not.”

Strasburg is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA over his last seven road starts

dating to his rookie campaign, allowing one or no runs in all but

one of those outings.

He’ll be opposed by Kevin Correia (1-2, 3.38), who’s compiled a

5.56 ERA while losing his last two outings.

The right-hander was tagged for a season-worst five runs and

nine hits over seven innings of Friday’s 6-1 loss to Cincinnati,

dropping to 1-5 over his last nine starts dating to last

season.

Correia has, for the most part, held his own against the

Nationals, going 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA in five career starts.

Washington has hit .298 against him over those outings, though.

Correia will get his first look at phenom Bryce Harper, who’s

cooled off a bit. The 19-year-old outfielder has gone 3 for 18 over

his last five games, dropping his average 110 points to .265.