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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, May 10th (All times Eastern)

Washington Nationals (18-12) at Pittsburgh Pirates (14-16), 7:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Washington - Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.66) Pittsburgh - Kevin Correia (1-2, 3.38)

(Sports Network) - Close to two years ago, Stephen Strasburg burst onto the scene with a jaw-dropping win over the Pirates.

Twenty-two starts and one Tommy John surgery later, the Washington Nationals phenom faces Pittsburgh for a second time as he tries to help his club avoid its first three-game sweep against the Pirates since relocating from Montreal.

The Nationals brightened their future when they took the 23-year-old Strasburg with the top pick of the 2009 draft and he made his major league debut a year later on June 8 at home versus the Pirates. Not only did Strasburg get the win with seven innings of two-run ball, but he also struck out a still career-high 14 batters while throwing 65 of his 94 pitches for strikes.

"Everything was a blur. At one point I lost track of how many innings I threw. It's kind of like when you get married. You go into it wanting to remember everything and once it's done you can't remember a single thing," Strasburg said at the time. "I just wanted to go out and have fun ... It was a great experience."

Strasburg ended up going 5-3 with a 2.91 earned run average in 12 starts before having his campaign cut short due to an elbow injury that eventually required surgery. The right-hander returned late last season and made five starts and has been healthy thus far in 2012.

Strasburg made his sixth start of the season on Friday versus the Phillies and lasted at least six innings for the sixth time. Still, he took a no-decision for a third straight outing after giving up a season-high three runs. Two of the three hits he allowed were homers, the first two he has given up this season.

"I left a couple of pitches up. It's an adjustment. It was just one of those games where they made me pay for it," Strasburg told Washington's official website. "It was just a couple of pitches. It could have gone differently, whether they decided to swing at them or not."

Kevin Correia takes the hill for the Pirates hoping to avoid a third straight losing start. The right-hander has won just once in nine starts dating back to last season and gave up season highs of five runs, nine hits and two homers over seven innings of a 6-1 defeat to the Reds on Friday.

The 31-year-old Correia is 3-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 12 career games versus the Nationals, including five starts.

Manager Clint Hurdle will hope that Correia can log some innings tonight after starter Erik Bedard was forced out of Wednesday's game after one inning due to back spasms. Pittsburgh's bullpen came up big in a 4-2 win, allowing two runs -- one earned -- and striking out 11 over eight innings. Brad Lincoln got the win with three innings of one-run ball and Joel Hanrahan logged his sixth save of the season.

"They've been very resilient," Hurdle said of his relievers. "They've been very effective. Tonight, they bent but they didn't break. We pitched ourselves into some tight corner, but were able to get out of them."

Andrew McCutchen made sure the effort wasn't wasted by going 4-for-4 with a solo homer and two RBI, while Neil Walker and Casey McGehee added an RBI each.

Pittsburgh has now won the first two encounters of this series and can record its first sweep against the Nats franchise since May 14-16, 1999 at home versus the Montreal Expos.

The Pirates also haven't won three in a row overall since last July 17-19.

Chad Tracy drove in a run with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly and Xavier Nady added an RBI base hit for the Nats, who have lost six in a row on the road and three straight overall after going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranding 10.

"It's just one of those things we have to get better at," Ryan Zimmerman said about his team's clutch hitting. "If we take advantage of our opportunities it's a different game."

Ross Detwiler gave up three runs on seven hits and did not walk a batter while striking out four through six innings to take the loss.

Pittsburgh and Washington split eight meetings a year ago.

05/10 10:26:44 ET