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WSH@PIT: Fister tosses four strikeouts vs. Bucs

Nationals right-hander Doug Fister and Rangers right-hander Nick Tepesch have each won their past two starts heading into Saturday afternoon's matchup, the second game of a three-game set at Nationals Park.

For Tepesch, it is the first winning streak of his young career. He is 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to replace Martin Perez in the rotation. Tepesch was 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 17 starts and two relief appearances as a rookie last year.

"I need to keep doing what I am doing," Tepesch said. "Not change anything, but look forward and just keep building off these starts. A year of experience definitely helps. Any time I take the mound I feel confident but knowing what to expect after last year definitely helps."

One thing Tepesch is doing very well is mixing his pitches and making adjustments during games. Last year, opponents hit .174 the first time through the order, .260 the second time and .446 the third time.

This year it has been the reverse. Opponents are hitting .280 the first time through the order, .192 the second time and .125 the third time.

"It's just a matter of making quality pitches, being aggressive and attacking the situations that present themselves during the game," Tepesch said. "Plus, maybe slowing down the game when certain situations hit. I just think it's the quality of pitches more than mixing in pitches."

Fister (2-1) boasts a 3.42 ERA with 17 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP in four starts. The right-hander hasn't surrendered more than two earned runs since his first start of the season on May 9. He missed 34 games to begin the season because of a right lat strain.

Nationals: Hitters relax with return of big bats
• Injuries have plagued the Nationals this season. Left fielder Bryce Harper, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, catcher Wilson Ramos and first baseman Adam LaRoche have all missed considerable time during the first two months.

Harper (torn left thumb ligament) and Zimmerman (right thumb fracture) remain absent from the Nationals' lineup as they tend to their respective injuries. But Ramos (left hamate bone) and LaRoche (right quad strain) have both returned to the lineup for manager Matt Williams in the last few weeks, bringing back at least a portion of the team's power and production.

As a result, the other Nationals' hitters have started to feel more relaxed as a fraction of the pressure of driving in runs has been lifted. And after a brutal offensive stretch, where the team lost six of seven games and batted .127 with runners in scoring position, Washington exploded for nine runs on 15 hits in a 9-2 series-opening victory over the Rangers on Friday night.

Ramos missed 32 games after injuring his hand on Opening Day and returned May 7. LaRoche missed 14 games after sustaining his leg injury on May 9 and returned May 25.

"When you get a healthier lineup and you start getting guys incorporated back in it, it just naturally takes some tension and pressure off everybody else," LaRoche said.

Rangers: Choice odd man out in NL park
• Rangers outfielder Michael Choice has been getting to play regularly since Prince Fielder was lost for the season because of neck surgery. The regular work has been paying off, as he was 6-for-19 in five games coming into the three-game series with the Nationals.

But he may have to sit this weekend, because the Rangers are playing in the National League city with no designated hitter. The Rangers are also facing three right-handed pitchers. Manager Ron Washington said he'll see how Shin-Soo Choo's sore ankle is this weekend. He might need a day off, which would give Choice a chance to play.

"Otherwise, I'll have him as a pinch-hitter off the bench," Washington said of Choice. "Consistent at-bats have helped him, but he was here as a fourth outfielder so he has had to learn to get his at-bats when he can. But it does seem like when he does play, he does have productive at-bats and seems to do something."

Worth noting
• The Rangers have won six straight day games

• The Nationals lead the Major Leagues with 18 home runs from middle infielders. Washington shortstops have contributed 11 or those 18 -- 10 from Ian Desmond and one from Zach Walter.

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