Nationals-Pirates Preview

While the Washington Nationals have endured a dip in their

production at the plate, they may feel better about the possibility

of breaking out against their next opponent.

The Nationals had plenty of success against the Pittsburgh

Pirates last season, and these clubs will open a three-game series

at PNC Park on Saturday after Friday night’s matchup was postponed

due to rain.

Washington (9-9) is hitting .218 this season for one of the

worst marks in the majors, and was limited to two singles in

Thursday’s 5-0 loss at St. Louis. The Nationals have totaled seven

hits in consecutive losses after averaging 9.3 during a four-game

win streak that preceded the defeats.

“Right now we’re in a period where they pitched and we didn’t

hit,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “It was only a few days before

that we were putting double figures in hits out there.”

The Nationals should be happy to see the Pirates (8-11).

Washington took five of six meetings in 2010, posting a .316

average, .378 on-base percentage and .519 slugging percentage – all

season bests against any opponent.

“We are not in bad shape,” right fielder Jayson Werth told the

Nationals’ official website. “We have been grinding out games and

winning games by doing the little things. I don’t know any one

person on this team who has reached their potential with the bat so

far this season. If we get that going, we’ll be fine.”

Michael Morse was 6 for 14 in those games and Danny Espinosa 4

for 9. Ryan Zimmerman was 10 for 24 with six RBIs but won’t come

off the disabled list this week after being out since April 9 due

to a strained abdominal muscle.

The Pirates also know about being shut out after losing two

straight by 6-0 scores at Florida. Their offense bounced back

Thursday, but it wasn’t enough in a 9-5 loss in the finale.

“We’re looking to win ballgames,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

“This is not a league where you try hard, this league you’ve got to

do good.”

Center fielder Andrew McCutchen returned after missing

Wednesday’s loss to visit his sick father. He went 0 for 5 to drop

his average to .212, and he was 4 for 23 against Washington last

season.

He and the Pirates will try to give Livan Hernandez (2-1, 2.88

ERA) another rude welcome to PNC Park. Hernandez is 1-4 in eight

starts at the stadium with a 6.17 ERA – his third-highest in any

current NL park.

The veteran right-hander has allowed one run to win each of his

last two starts while failing to issue a walk, pitching seven

innings in Sunday’s 5-1 victory over Milwaukee.

He’ll be opposed by Jeff Karstens (1-0, 4.50), who will make his

second start since joining the rotation Sunday after Ross Ohlendorf

landed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. Karstens gave

up five runs over 4 1-3 innings and matched a career high with six

strikeouts in a 7-6 victory at Cincinnati.

The right-hander is 0-1 with a 6.55 ERA in two starts against

the Nationals.

Karstens will try to pick up a rotation that posted a 15.43 ERA

during the sweep in Florida.

The Pirates have the worst home mark in the majors at 1-5.

Friday’s game has been rescheduled for Monday, a day both teams

originally had off.