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Preview: Nationals (0-0) at Pirates (0-0)
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Game: 1
Venue: PNC Park
Date: April 22, 2011 7:05 PM EDT

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 begin a weekend set Friday night at PNC Park.

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 opponents.

"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 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.

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Nationals at Pirates
Fri, Apr 22 - 7:05PM EDT
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