Thru 4 1/2: Nats trail 2-1

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The Nationals have contained Andrew McCutchen so far, but they haven’t been able to keep Ronny Cedeno in the ballpark.

Yes, the light-hitting Pirates shortstop scorched a 1-0 pitch from Collin Balester in the third well over the left-field fence for a two-run homer. That’s been the difference so far in Washington’s 2-1 deficit. Balester has been otherwise solid, scattering three hits and a walk and keeping his pitch count manageable.

The Nats got their run in the top of the second thanks in no small part to a vicious takeout slide by Elijah Dukes. With men on first and second and no one out, Ronnie Belliard hit what should have a tailor-made double play ball to short. But Dukes went in hard at second and took out Delwyn Young, flipping the second baseman over and preventing him from making the turn. Josh Willingham moved to third, and since there was now only one out, Willingham was able to score on Alberto Gonzalez’s slow roller to short.

So that’s where things stand halfway through this one. Nats need to get something going against Paul Maholm to give Balester a shot at the win.

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Mark Zuckerman

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