Pittsburgh (18-22) at Washington (19-21)

Cloudy Currently: Washington, DC
Temp: 77° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Mon May 16, 2011
  • TV: ROOT, MASN2
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Washington Nationals finally got some timely hitting in their latest game, allowing them to avoid a fourth consecutive loss.

Facing the Pittsburgh Pirates’ suddenly struggling pitch staff might be a good way to stay hot at the plate.

The Nationals look to build off a much-needed win Monday night as they begin a two-game set with the visiting Pirates, who will turn to Paul Maholm(notes) to right a pitching staff that’s been dreadful in five straight losses.

Washington (19-21) has the majors’ lowest batting average at .225, and four hits were all it could muster in watching its skid extend to three with Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Florida.

The Nationals didn’t waste any time bouncing back Sunday. They had six hits and sent nine men to the plate in a six-run first inning, all the cushion they’d need in an 8-4 victory.

Washington had scored eight runs total in the first inning in its first 39 games.

“We know if we got on track offensively a little bit earlier, we would’ve won a few more games because we’ve pitched very well,” manager Jim Riggleman told the Nationals’ official website. “But that’s the nature of it. The record says what we are. We’re kind of hanging in there and treading water a little bit, but we feel very good about the club.”

The Pirates (18-22), on the other hand, were the victims of some big early innings Sunday. Milwaukee scored four in the first and one apiece in the second and third before hanging on for a 9-6 win.

“We fought hard to get back, and they opened it up on us,” said catcher Chris Snyder(notes), who was ejected in the ninth inning for arguing a called strike.

Pittsburgh, which had a 3.54 ERA in its first 35 games, has a 6.43 ERA while dropping five in a row.

Maholm (1-5, 3.60 ERA) will try to get his club back on track, but the left-hander hasn’t been getting much help from the Pirates’ offense. His 1.98 run-support average is one of the majors’ worst, and he didn’t get any support in a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.

Maholm gave up two runs over six innings, his fifth quality start in eight opportunities.

“He took care of his end and what he could control tonight,” manager Clint Hurdle told the Pirates’ official website. “He continues to do that. He’s got enough length in the game that I’ll know he’ll continue to do that.”

Maholm got a little help April 25 against the Nationals, and he turned in an outstanding performance. He gave up two runs and four hits over seven innings, striking out eight, in a 4-2 victory.

That, however, was Maholm’s first win in eight starts versus Washington. He was 0-4 with a 6.26 ERA in the series from 2006 to 2010.

Jayson Werth(notes) (8 for 21, one homer) and Ivan Rodriguez(notes) (4 for 9, one homer) have both fared well against Maholm.

John Lannan(notes) (2-4, 4.79) took the loss against Maholm last month to fall to 1-4 with a 4.91 ERA in seven starts versus Pittsburgh, the beginning of a three-game skid in which he posted a 7.53 ERA.

The lefty bounced back Wednesday against Atlanta, though. Lannan held the Braves to two runs over six innings in a 7-3, 11-inning victory.

Pirates outfielder Matt Diaz(notes) is 11 for 25 against Lannan, whose home ERA (2.55) is nearly four runs lower than on the road.

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Starting Pitchers

P. Maholm Cin vs. J. Lannan Col
6-14 Record 10-13
3.66 ERA 3.70
97 K 106
50 BB 76
1.29 WHIP 1.46

Scoreboard

Monday, May 16