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PHI@WSH: Strasburg hurls six frames of three-run ball

For the first time since making his Major League debut on June 8, 2010, Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg will face the Pirates on Thursday, as his team looks to avoid a series sweep.

Strasburg fired seven innings and allowed two runs on four hits while striking out what still stands as a career-high 14 batters in his memorable debut. The two runs came on a Delwyn Young home run.

Since that first homer, the 23-year-old right-hander has only given up six more. One-third of the long balls came in his last outing against the Phillies, when Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz took him deep.

"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 said after the game. "It was just a couple of pitches. It could have gone differently, whether they decided to swing at them or not."

Prior to Pence's blast in the fourth inning, Strasburg had gone 67 2/3 innings without allowing a home run. You would have to go back to Aug. 15, 2010, against the Diamondbacks for Strasburg's last homer allowed, although he made only five starts last season, as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Opposing Strasburg on Thursday is right-hander Kevin Correia, who has one win in his last nine starts dating back to last season. Correia went seven innings against the Reds his last time on the mound, but was outdueled by Johnny Cueto.

"You don't have the luxury of giving up a lot of runs," said Correia about drawing tough matchups. "No matter who it is, I just try to give up one fewer run than the other guy."

Correia will try to lead Pittsburgh to its first series sweep since Sept. 17-19, 2010, against Arizona. With a win, the Pirates will also be on a season-high three-game winning streak, as they have been stalled in a win one game, lose the next for the past three weeks.

"For us to get hot, we have to find that three-part mixture of pitching well, playing good defense, and getting timely hitting," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We haven't had that for an entire series of games. That's why the games are running the way they have been."

Pirates: Bedard leaves early
Left-hander Erik Bedard exited in the second inning of Wednesday's game with back spasms. Bedard is 2-4 with a 2.65 ERA this season.

• Outfielder Jose Tabata has hit safely in 11 of his last 14 games, going 17-for-57 (.298) with five doubles, a homer and five RBIs.

Nationals: Johnson sticking with Espinosa
Danny Espinosa is 20-for-106 (.189) with a home run and two RBIs, and leads the team in strikeouts with 39. Manager Davey Johnson said he is concerned, but said the struggling second baseman will not be removed from the lineup.

"I know he has the confidence, I know he has the ability," Johnson said. "It's just a matter of time."

• The Nationals are tied for the Major League lead with 15 one-run games and nine one-run victories. They are 8-0 in one-run games at Nationals Park, and 1-5 on the road.

Worth Noting
• With the 3-1 loss Wedesday, the Nationals fell to 8-2 in series play. Although they have won eight series, they have only one sweep -- a two-game series against the Marlins.

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