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PIT@LAA: Cole strikes out five in 6 1/3 strong frames

Even with a shakeup of the coaching staff, the Nationals could not find enough offense Monday. They'll have a new challenge Tuesday when they face young flamethrower Gerrit Cole of the Pirates.

Washington has lost nine of its last 11 games, and the team has not scored more than five runs since July 7. Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein was dismissed Monday and replaced by Rick Schu.

Cole, a rookie right-hander, will take the mound Tuesday in search of the Pirates' third straight victory. He will face a lineup that has averaged 2.6 runs per game in its last 11 contests.

"This game is crazy. You can be the best hitter in the world and go in an 0-for-30 slump," Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond said. "Unfortunately, all of us have pretty much been in slumps at the same time. In a sense, I feel like that's a good thing because when we do get hot and we do start doing it, it's going to be really good."

Since being promoted in June, Cole -- the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft -- has gone at least five innings in each of his seven starts. Cole has a fastball that lights up the radar gun, and he won his first four career starts before dropping his last three outings.

The Nationals will send Taylor Jordan, a fellow rookie, to the mound to try to even the series. Jordan has just four career starts and has not yet picked up his first Major League win. However, he turned in his first quality start (two runs, eight hits, four strikeouts in six innings) in his last appearance against the Marlins.

Pirates: McCutchen red-hot against Nationals
The Pirates have a four-game stay at Nationals Park this week, but Andrew McCutchen might want to stay longer.

McCutchen smacked two homers against Nationals starter Dan Haren on Monday night in a 6-5 victory. The two blasts -- both of which were two-run home runs -- were just the latest in a string of successes the All-Star has had against Washington.

The center fielder is 18-for-35 in his last nine games at Nationals Park, and he has five homers and 12 RBIs in 11 career contests there. McCutchen has a .431 average, 13 home runs and 26 RBIs in 27 lifetime games against the Nationals.

Nationals: Johnson content with pitching, remains optimistic
Times have been tough for the Nationals lately.

With four straight losses, the team has fallen to third place in the National League East. Big offensive numbers have been nonexistent for the Nationals lately, and though that has spoiled some good starts, manager Davey Johnson still seems pleased with how his pitchers have thrown lately.

The Nationals rank sixth in the NL in ERA, and in the two wins they have in their last 11 games, they've allowed a total of three runs. Make no mistake, the losses bother Johnson. However, he still thinks the team can get back on track.

"I like the way the guys are throwing the ball in the bullpen, I like the way the starters have been pitching," Johnson said. "And I talk to guys, there's a good attitude. I'm the one that's frustrated. I'm the one that has trouble sleeping. But I feel like we're going to be fine."

Worth noting
• Both of Tuesday's starters, Cole and Jordan, were in the Minor Leagues at the beginning of June.

• Jayson Werth homered twice Monday for the second straight game. The Nationals' right fielder has 14 homers on the season and six in his last 10 games. Comments