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09/03/10 11:04 PM ET

Bucs' young core seeks series win vs. Nats

John Russell and the Pirates approach each day with a fresh outlook.

Far out of playoff conversation, the Pirates are undoubtedly playing for something else. The club has the worst record in baseball (45-89), which can easily turn a potentially exciting month of September into the dog days.

Russell sees it another way.

"The group we have, they're a pretty young group -- so the energy level has been there all year. Being energetic and wanting to lean and wanting to get back out there, it's been very good," Russell said. "Nobody out here likes losing. But they continue to do what they need to do to make sure they're prepared for the game. That's one of the things we're really focused on is the process. We're going to try not to focus so much on the result."

Young players like Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker give the Pirates a sense of optimism for the future. Tabata has reached safely in 61 of his 74 starts this year, Walker is riding a career-high 10-game hit streak and McCutchen simply has future All-Star potential written all over him.

Their core can secure the series win against the Nationals, who can certainly relate to the Bucs' situation, on Saturday.

The Nats understand it'll be due time before recent No. 1 picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper reach their full potential with the big league club. As for 2010, the situation is equally as grim in Washington as in Pittsburgh.

The Nats sit in last place in the National League East, 21 games behind the first-place Braves. But another one of Washington's young hopefuls will be on the hill Saturday, as southpaw John Lannan looks to build off his last stellar start.

The last time out, he was dominant in 7 2/3 innings of work against the Cardinals. Lannan, who spent time with Double-A Harrisburg after some midseason struggles, held St. Louis to just one run to even his record to 6-6 this year.

"I want to be confident with each pitch," Lannan said after the outing. "I think I did a pretty good job of that, especially to lefties. I made smarter pitches. I was more careful with the sliders today. I felt comfortable with my changeup, throwing the ball in, and my curveball felt pretty good."

Nationals: Hurler coming off a hot month
Lannan was 4-1 with a 3.25 ERA in six starts in August. ... Danny Espinosa hit his first career homer in the third inning of Friday's series opener. ... On Friday, Major League Baseball suspended outfielder Nyjer Morgan for eight games, pitcher Doug Slaten three games and manager Jim Riggleman and third-base coach Pat Listach for two games for their roles in Wednesday night's fracas in Miami.

Pirates: Walker streaking
Walker has gone 18-for-43 (.418) with three doubles, two triples, four homers and 14 RBIs during his 10-game hitting streak. In that time, he's raised his average from .293 to .310. ... With one hit Friday, Walker is one knock shy of becoming the first Pirates rookie switch-hitter with 100 hits since Johnny Ray had 182 in 1982. ... Pittsburgh beat Washington for the first time since Aug. 1, 2009, with the 8-5 victory on Friday. ... Tabata has hit safely in nine of his past 12 games, batting 18-for-47 (.383) in that span.

Worth noting
The Pirates will dedicate and unveil a Bill Mazeroski statue on Mazeroski Way at 12:45 p.m. ET on Sunday outside the right-field gate at PNC Park. Mazeroski's two sons, Darren and David, grandson, Billy, as well as former 1960 teammates Bob Friend, Dick Groat, Roy Face and Bill Virdon will handle the unveiling. ... Strasburg had successful Tommy John surgery on Friday in Inglewood, Calif. Dr. Lewis Yocum performed the procedure, which could keep Strasburg out of the rotation until 2012. Strasburg is expected to be released from the hospital Saturday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.