The Washington Nationals got three solo home runs, six good innings from Livan Hernandez and three shutout innings from the bullpen to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2, taking their first series sweep of the season, before 21,767 at Nationals Park.

Hernandez (W, 5-3) was up to his old tricks, mowing down Pirates left and right, until tiring in the sixth inning.  He allowed just two hits and one walk through five, with Jason Jaramillo's double in the third representing the lone scoring opportunity through the fifth.

On the other side of the ledger, the Nats were getting just enough offense against Pirates starter Zach Duke.  Adam Dunn hit a towering shot to right with one out in the third inning--his third homer in as many games and 13th for the season. 

After a Ryan Zimmerman ground out, Josh Willingham took one to the Red Porch seats in left center, his 12th of the campaign.

Washington got another run in the fourth off Duke (L, 3-7).  With two outs, Dunn singled to the right field corner on a hard hit ball, went to second on a balk, and scored on the combination of Ryan Zimmerman's infield single and third baseman Andy LaRoche's throwing error.

Dunn was moved into the third spot this evening by manager Jim Riggleman against Duke, a lefty.  Hitting in the third spot in the lineup this season, Dunn was hitting .412 (7-for-17) with two home runs.  He only added to those totals in this contest.

"Anytime it's a left-handed pitcher we think about doing that," Riggleman said after the ballgame.  "Dunn is very well protected by Zimmerman in that situation."

Dunn is hitting .330 (38-for-115) with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in his last 30 games.

Hernandez ran into his only trouble in the sixth, when Duke and Jose Tabata hit back-to-back doubles, followed by a single from Neil Walker and a sacrifice fly by Andrew McCutchen. 

Hernandez really bore down though, pitching around left-handed swinging Garrett Jones before retiring the next two batters, punctuated the effort by striking out Bobby Crosby for the final out of the frame.

The veteran gave up two earned runs in six innings total on five hits and two walks, striking out three.

Former Nationals' closer, Joel Hanrahan, pitched the seventh inning for the Pirates and gave up a hit to Desmond, got Dunn to hit a fly ball and struck out Zimmerman and Willingham.

With Matt Capps unavailable after throwing three straight days, the bullpen had a little different configuration, but to another excellent result.

Sean Burnett pitched two scoreless innings of relief, and Tyler Clippard was called upon for the ninth inning.  He responded as he has all season, striking out two in the process, including a called third strike on pich-hitter and former National Ryan Church, who had some words with home plate umpire Lance Barksdale after the call.

It was Clippard's first career save.

"I really wanted to give Matt [Capps] a night off...he's been up a lot," Riggleman said.  "It was gonna have to be someone else tonight and they got it done."

Including the scoreless effort tonight, Nationals relievers combined to throw 9 1/3 scoreless innings in the series with the Pirates.  Coincidence with the sweep?

Michael Morse, inserted against the lefty, also responded.  He went 2-for-2 with a walk off Duke and hit an insurance home run, his first of the season, to dead center field in the eighth inning off right-handed reliever Brendan Donnelly.

The Nationals now embark on a seven-day, six-game interleague road trip against the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers.  Tomorrow they face their former manager, Manny Acta, and the Tribe.  Luis Atilano (5-2, 4.24) gets the ball versus Jake Westbrook (3-3, 4.84) at 7:05 pm from Progressive Field.

NATS NOTES:  Willingham has hit safely in seven straight and 14 of his last 18 games.  Over that span, he is .339 with six homers and 16 RBIs.

Cristian Guzman was 0-for-5 in the leadoff spot and struck out twice.

Roger Bernadina, who has struggled mightily against left-handers this season, was on base three times with a single and two walks.

Pittsburgh has lost five straight and six of their last seven games.

The Nationals had 10 hits and four walks, struck out six times, and left nine on base.  They were 2-for-11 with men in scoring position.

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