Washington Nationals (9-9, 3rd NLE) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (8-11, 5th NLC)
PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA
Fri. Apr. 22, 7:05 pm: Livan Hernandez (2-1, 2.88) v. Jeff Karstens (1-0, 4.50)
Sat. Apr. 23, 7:05 pm: Jason Marquis (1-0, 2.57) v. Kevin Correia (3-1, 2.00)
Sun. Apr. 24, 1:35 pm: John Lannan (2-1, 3.60) v. Paul Maholm (0-3, 14.73)

The Nationals travel to Pittsburgh licking their wounds after losing two of three to St. Louis this week, hoping to get back on track and looking for their lost offense after getting shut down and shut out by the Cardinals this week.  The Nats managed just seven hits in the two losses to the Cards, and their team slash line is dreadful at .218/.305/.333.

It's not just a couple of spots in the order that's hurting the Nats right now, it's almost everyone.  Adam LaRoche is hitting .211.  Michael Morse is at .196.  Rick Ankiel a robust .221.  But no where are the struggles more evident than in the three-hole, and $126 million dollar man Jayson Werth. 

The slugger, brought in to fill this lineup out, is hitting .209/.293/.358 with two home runs and four RBIs in 75 plate appearances.  He's struck out 16 times, and what's worse, he's hitting ground balls outs at double his historical pace.

The Pirates enter play as the usually do, looking up at the rest of the Central Division.  They've won just three of their last ten games, and were shut out twice by Florida earlier this week.  They aren't hitting much more than the Nats, going .233/.313/.350 as a team.  While the Nats are getting some decent starting pitching , the Pirates are fourth worst in the N.L., giving up 4.89 runs per game.

Pittsburgh has some very good young talented players, such as CF Andrew McCutchen, 3B Pedro Alvarez, LF Jose Tabata and 2B Neil Walker, but all have struggled so far this season at the plate.

The Nats are expexcted to add INF Brian Bixler to the roster before tonight's game unless it's called by rain, and he's with the team in Pittsburgh.  He'll needed to be added to the 40-man roster, so the team will have to remove someone to activate Bixler. Bixler is insurance for when Ian Desmond leaves the team to be with his wife Chelsey, due any day with the couple's first child.


NATIONALS: Espinosa-4, Ankiel-8, Werth-9, LaRoche-3, Ramos-2, Morse-7, Desmond-6, Hairston-5, Hernandez-1
PIRATES:  McCutchen -8, Tabata-7, Overbay-3, Walker-4, Jones-9, Doumit-2, Alvarez-5, Cedeno-6, Karstens-1