WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' preliminary schedule for the 2011 season was released on Tuesday, and the team hopes to get better results this time.

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will start his sixth full season with the Nationals when they play their first game of the season at Nationals Park against the Braves on Thursday, March 31. It's the first of 12 games to open the season in which the Nationals face National League East rivals.

After the three-game series against Atlanta, the Nationals go on the road starting April 5 to do battle against the Marlins and Mets.

In May, the Nationals will open Interleague Play with a three-game series against the Orioles at Camden Yards. Washington hopes to fare better against Baltimore than in 2010, when it lost four out of six games in the Battle of the Beltways, including a three-game sweep in Baltimore.

The following month, the Nationals' Interleague schedule finds them playing host to the Mariners and hitting the road to face the White Sox and Angels.

Washington will see a good deal of its NL East rivals during the month of September. Its last three games at Nationals Park will be against the Braves from Sept. 23-25. The Nats' season ends in Florida with a three-game series against the Marlins Sept. 26-28.