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NYM@PIT: Morton holds Mets to two runs, fans four

The Nationals hoped the All-Star break would give them some life in the second half of a season that began with high expectations.

But their offense struggled all weekend against the Dodgers, and Washington will start a four-game set at home on Monday against Pittsburgh, which leads baseball in team ERA and batting average against.

The Nationals scored just five runs against the Dodgers in their first series out of the break -- despite collecting 23 hits -- and dropped all three games.

"I'm sure everyone's sick of hearing it, but it's got to turn around at some point," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "And if it doesn't, then we're going to keep on trying until we run out of time."

Dan Haren will take the mound for the Nats against the Pirates' Charlie Morton. Haren posted a 9.82 ERA and a .354 opponents batting average over four starts in June, then went on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Since returning, he's allowed just two earned runs over 11 innings in two starts.

Morton has a 3.19 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in six starts this season. He underwent Tommy John surgery last June and made his 2013 debut on June 13.

His last time out, Morton, a sinkerball pitcher, allowed two runs on six hits in a 3-2, extra-inning win over the Mets on July 12.

"A very efficient outing by Charlie," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after the win. "A lot of balls on the ground. It's good to see him continue to get a little bit better every time he has the ball. I liked Morton's outing, then the way were able to finish up after that."

Nationals: Home run drought ends
The Nationals offense has struggled as of late, and its lack of power is at least partially to blame. The club hadn't homered in six straight games entering Sunday. With another homerless game, it would have matched the franchise's longest streak since 2004, when the team was the Montreal Expos.

But Jayson Werth delivered a pair of solo homers Sunday off Clayton Kershaw. The Nats still fell, 9-2.

Before Sunday, the Nats last hit a dinger on July 10, when Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos all delivered solo home runs in a 5-1 win over the Phillies.

Pirates: Runners in scoring position streak ends
Entering Sunday, the Pirates had the worst batting average with runners in scoring position of any National League club. The final game of a three-game set against the Reds brought much of the same through six innings, but in the seventh, an 0-for-29 streak with runners in scoring position finally came to an end. That streak dated back to last Sunday.

The Bucs got RBI singles from Jordy Mercer and Jose Tabata in the seventh inning to help them to a 3-2 win over the Reds.

Still, Pittsburgh went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position Sunday afternoon.

Worth noting
• The Pirates have not hit a sacrifice fly since June 14, and their last one to the outfield came on May 27.

• The Nationals are 10 games behind the Pirates in the NL standings. Pittsburgh currently holds the No. 1 Wild Card spot, with Cincinnati trailing by three games.

• Current Pirates are hitting .224 with a .578 OPS lifetime against Haren.

• The Nationals and Pirates are 8-8 against each other since the start of the 2011 season, when Davey Johnson and Hurdle began managing their respective clubs. Comments