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WSH@CWS: Gorzelanny takes the hard-luck loss

The Nationals and Pirates will not only square off in the lone National League series on the final weekend of Interleague Play, but they'll also provide a look at two of the more surprising clubs during the first half of the season. Both will look to sink into the familiarity of the Senior Circuit, but it is Nationals starter Tom Gorzelanny who will see a number of familiar faces in Friday's series opener.

Gorzelanny, the second-round Draft pick of the Pirates in 2003, will make his fifth career start against his former club, with which he appeared in 76 games (65 starts) and compiled a 25-26 record. Now he returns to face the Pirates for the first time in 2011 after posting a 1-0 record and 3.00 ERA versus them in his career.

The Nationals hope that Gorzelanny can build off his most recent start, on Sunday, in which he gave up one earned run in seven innings with eight strikeouts against the White Sox. Though it was the left-hander's fourth straight loss, it was an improvement after he'd surrendered 13 earned runs in his previous 15 1/3 innings.

"Gorzelanny really did a great job for us," then-interim manager John McLaren said. "The way it looked in the first inning, I wasn't sure if we could maybe get five or six innings from him. He did us a great service. I appreciate the way he stepped up."

The Pirates' Charlie Morton returns to the mound for the first time in 11 days after his turn in the rotation was skipped because of fatigue. Morton was tagged for six earned runs and eight hits in two innings against the Orioles on June 20, leading manager Clint Hurdle to make the decision to give the right-hander some extra rest.

"At the beginning of this, I didn't feel tired," Morton said. "Whether or not shutting me down was the answer, or whether or not it's making sure I'm doing all the right things between starts, we'll find out. We've been doing some things to get extension."

Morton started the season with a 5-1 record but has gone just 2-3 over his last six outings, without a quality start in his last three appearances.

Pirates: Morton's homer-less streak
• Morton has gone 64 1/3 innings since allowing his last home run, a two-out solo shot by Jay Bruce in the ninth inning in his complete game on April 15. It's the third-longest active streak in the Majors behind San Diego's Heath Bell (99 2/3 innings) and Oakland's Joey Devine (76 2/3 innings).     

• Neil Walker (sore lower back) and Xavier Paul (right hamstring soreness) were both out of the lineup on Thursday with injuries. It's unclear whether either will be ready to play on Friday.

Nationals: Morse mashing past 2010 totals
• It wasn't until 2010 that then-29-year-old Michael Morse got a chance at prolonged playing time at the big league level. He appeared in 98 games with the Nationals last season, but through just 72 games in 2011, he is on the verge of eclipsing nearly every major statistic he accrued a year ago. Morse has already tied his home run total (15), his 46 RBIs surpasses the 41 he recorded last season and he is five hits from matching the 77 he tallied in 2010.

Worth noting:
• Alex Presley's leadoff home run on Tuesday was the first by a Pirates leadoff hitter since Andrew McCutchen went yard on May 18.

• The Pirates enter Nationals Park with a five-game losing streak at the stadium. The club's last win was a 2-1 victory on May 20, 2009.

• Washington's Jerry Hairston left Wednesday's game against the Angels in the fifth inning after a Dan Haren pitch struck him on the right hand. He is day to day. Comments