Nats hope to have Zimmerman back in opener with Bucs

The Washington Nationals were hoping to have all their stars aligned tonight with the expected return of slugging third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, but Jayson Werth's broken left wrist spoiled that opportunity.

The National League East-leading Nationals will begin life without Werth for about 12 weeks tonight in the opener of a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. The Nationals will also visit Cincinnati for three games on the trek and lost Werth in Sunday's 9-3 defeat to Philadelphia.

Werth came down awkwardly on the wrist trying to make a sliding catch in right field during the sixth inning, and exited the game holding his left arm. Werth underwent surgery on Monday to repair the wrist and was placed on the disabled list with expectations of him missing a few months. Werth, who broke the same wrist back in 2005 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is hitting .276 with three home runs and 12 RBI this season.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson will most likely use Xavier Nady and Roger Bernadina in left field, and move rookie phenom Bryce Harper to right field until Werth is healthy enough to return. Stephen Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy could also see action in the outfield. Harper was just beaned in the back by Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, resulting in Hamels' five-game suspension. Hamels said he hit Harper intentionally and his punishment was revealed Monday.

Harper stole home to give Washington a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Sunday before the Nationals' pitching staff struggled. Starter Jordan Zimmermann was saddled with the loss and yielded three runs on seven hits and four walks over six innings. Ryan Perry was later hammered in relief, as he surrendered six runs and five hits in just two-thirds of an inning.

"I didn't feel too good tonight and my stuff definitely wasn't there," said Zimmermann.

Ian Desmond finished with two hits and an RBI, while Bernadina drove in a run for the Nationals, who went 4-2 on the homestand and had a four-game winning streak come to an end. Meanwhile, Zimmerman hasn't played since April 20 versus Miami because of right shoulder inflammation and was batting .224 with a home run and seven RBI at the time. The Nationals are 7-5 without him and could also get first baseman Adam LaRoche back in the lineup. LaRoche has been bothered by a bruised right abdominal muscle and is hitting .311 with four homers and 17 runs batted in.

"I'm going to push it a little bit more, and [I'm] still holding out [hope that I'll play on] Tuesday," LaRoche said on the club's website.

Edwin Jackson will take the mound for Washington tonight and he is 0-1 in his last three starts with back-to-back no-decisions. Jackson allowed four runs and a season-high eight hits in last Wednesday's 5-4 win versus Arizona, one start after tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings in a no-decision at San Diego. He is 1-1 with a 3.69 earned run average in five starts overall.

Jackson has yet to lose to Pittsburgh in five career starts, going 4-0 with a 3.13 ERA. The right-hander has no record and a 2.31 ERA in two road starts this season.

The Pirates will continue a nine-game homestand Tuesday and lost two of three matchups with the Reds over the weekend to kick off the residency. They were held to three hits in Sunday's 5-0 blanking, as Charlie Morton handled pitching duties and was roughed up for five runs -- four earned -- and seven hits, including two home runs, in six innings to take the loss.

Jose Tabata, Neil Walker and Nate McLouth each had a hit for the Pirates, who have dropped four of their last six games.

"I saw some big swings up there," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "[The Reds] have a club that can take some big swings and do some damage. We don't have that type of club. When we start swinging big, we're working to the other team's advantage."

Hurdle's club will also host Houston on the homestand. Taking the mound for the Buccos tonight will be veteran A.J. Burnett. Burnett was hammered in last Wednesday's 12-3 loss at St. Louis in which he permitted 12 runs and 12 hits in 2 2/3 innings. Burnett had a 1.38 earned run average over his first two starts, but is now 1-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three starts overall.

"My only problem [against the Cardinals] was being up," Burnett told the team's website. "I wasn't able to get to the bullpen fast enough, to make adjustments and get back down [in the strike zone] where I belong."

The righty is 7-3 with a 3.42 ERA in 14 career games (13 starts) against the Nationals.

Pittsburgh and Washington split eight meetings a year ago.