The Washington Times - August 3, 2009, 06:33PM

Good evening from PNC Park, where the Nats are about to wrap up a four-game series against the Pirates and return home following a long, eight-game trip to Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. This trip, though, is only one fraction of the longer, 25-game stretch this team has been facing coming out of the All-Star break. Twenty-five games in 25 days, not the easiest task.

Surprisingly, the Nationals have held up pretty well during this brutal stretch. Their overall record is 7-10. That’s hardly great, but the .412 winning percentage is far better than their overall .314 mark this season. And remember that they came out of the break with five straight losses. So they’ve gone 7-5 since then.

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Jim Riggleman is pretty happy with how his team has held up during this extended run. The only player to succumb to any kind of significant injury has been Jordan Zimmermann, and his elbow appears to be fine. Riggleman has made a concerted effort to give most of his regular position players a day off here and there to keep them fresh. Most important to the interim manager, the relief corps has survived without suffering major damage.

“I’m really, really - knock on wood - happy with how the bullpen has held up,” Riggleman said. “You know, 25 days in a row can really wear on your bullpen. They’ve been able to take the ball pretty good and give us the necessary innings. [Ron] Villone in particular has eaten up some tough innings for us.”

The Nats fly home after tonight’s game, then host the Marlins and Diamondbacks for six games before finally enjoying their first day off since the All-Star break. Needless to say, players are already counting down the days.

Here’s tonight’s lineups…

NATIONALS

CF Nyjer Morgan

SS Cristian Guzman

3B Ryan Zimmerman

1B Adam Dunn

LF Josh Willingham

RF Elijah Dukes

C Josh Bard

2B Alberto Gonzalez

P Garrett Mock

PIRATES

CF Andrew McCutchen

LF Lastings Milledge

RF Garrett Jones

C Ryan Doumit

1B Steve Pearce

2B Delwyn Young

3B Andy LaRoche

SS Ronny Cedeno

P Charlie Morton