Nationals-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs are already looking ahead to next season, and Nate Schierholtz is hoping to be a part of it.

The Washington Nationals are still trying to salvage something from 2012.

Schierholtz will try to continue his hot stretch at the plate Tuesday night, and help the Cubs to their first four-game winning streak over the Nationals in over four years.

Chicago (54-70) may be headed for a fourth straight losing season, but the club's rebuilding project has it hopeful of future improvement.

Schierholtz isn't one of those youngsters, but he continues to surprise in his first season with the Cubs. His 18 homers are tied with Anthony Rizzo for the team lead, while his 58 RBIs are second to the 24-year-old first baseman.

The right fielder is 7 for 15 with two homers, two doubles and nine RBIs over the last four games. He went 3 for 4 with a pair of homers and drove in a career-high six runs in Monday's 11-1 rout of Washington (60-64) to open this four-game set.

"I'm just trying to put up good at-bats and help the team out," Schierholtz said. "Just try not to do too much. Just trying to keep it simple and go out there and have fun."

"I'd like to be part of the future here."

Schierholtz is 7 for 13 over his last four meetings with Washington, but is 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against Dan Haren, Tuesday's scheduled starter.

Haren (7-11, 4.79) gets the start after earning his first career save in Saturday's 8-7, 15-inning win at Atlanta. The right-hander threw 23 pitches in one scoreless inning in his first relief appearance since 2004 with St. Louis.

Haren said he tossed 30 to 35 pitches in a bullpen session earlier in the day, but he's remaining on schedule for his next start despite the extra work.

He's 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA over his last four starts, and pitched well enough to win in a 4-3 loss to San Francisco on Thursday. Haren allowed one run and three hits in six innings before closer Rafael Soriano served up a three-run homer in the ninth.

He's 0-2 with a 7.06 ERA in four career starts at Wrigley Field, but hasn't appeared there since May 1, 2010.

The Nationals haven't helped their slim postseason chances lately, losing four of five to fall 10 1/2 games behind Cincinnati for the second wild-card spot.

In an effort to close the gap, the Nationals acquired outfielder David DeJesus from the Cubs on Monday. He popped out as a pinch-hitter in his debut.

Chicago is scheduled to turn to Chris Rusin (2-2, 3.06), who is 2-2 with a 2.48 ERA in five starts since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa last month.

The rookie left hander was the hard-luck loser Wednesday, allowing two runs and three hits in six innings of a 5-0 defeat to Cincinnati.

"I don't even think about what players could be coming up or what my role is next year or anything," Rusin told the team's official website. "I just go game to game, and that's what helps me. If I put too much pressure on myself, then that's when you start making mistakes and try to be too perfect."

Rusin made plenty of mistakes in his only start against the Nationals on Sept. 4, surrendering five runs and eight hits - two homers - before he was lifted with no outs in the second inning of an 11-5 loss.

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