The Washington Times - May 19, 2009, 07:59PM

If there’s been one starting pitcher the Nats have been able to count on through thick and thin so far this season, it’s been Shairon Martis.

Well, at least until tonight.

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Needing a big performance from their promising rookie right-hander, the Nats instead are getting a dud. Martis has been rocked pretty good by the Pirates through three innings, allowing five runs on five hits and putting his teammates in a 5-0 hole that’s going to be tough to climb out of.

Martis, seeking to improve to 6-0 for the season, did not look like his usual self from the beginning. Five batters into the first inning, he had already allowed a double, a single, a walk, thrown a wild pitch, then allowed a two-run double. Three runs just like that.

He settled down during a 1-2-3 second innings, but then uncorked another wild pitch in the third in advance of a two-run homer by Andy LaRoche that might as well have been served on a platter.

The Nats, meanwhile, have done very little against Pirates No. 5 starter Jeff Karstens so far. Willie Harris drew a second-inning walk. Wil Nieves singled to right in the third. And Nick Johnson was plunked by a pitch.

That’s it so far, leaving the Nats staring at a 5-0 hole after three innings.