By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- The Washington Nationals were all set to welcome back their star third baseman after a 13-game hiatus, hopefully getting a jolt to their inconsistent offense.
Now with another key piece of their lineup going down, Ryan Zimmerman's return has become all the more necessary.
Zimmerman is expected to play two days after Jayson Werth suffered a broken wrist when Washington visits the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game set Tuesday night.
The Nationals (18-10) have gone 7-6 with Zimmerman sidelined because of right shoulder inflammation, batting .228 in the games he missed as opposed to .246 with him in the lineup.
Zimmerman took batting practice before a 9-3 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday that ended a four-game winning streak and said he felt good to play Tuesday.
In the sixth inning, though, Werth broke his left wrist attempting to make a sliding catch. He's expected to miss significant time, just as manager Davey Johnson was ready to have Werth, Zimmerman and former Pirate Adam LaRoche in the lineup together again.
LaRoche, who has a team-best 17 RBIs and has missed the last four games with a bruised right oblique, also hopes to play Tuesday.
"All of a sudden we seem to be getting a little more healthy and then boom, another one of our main guys goes down," Johnson said. "We've dealt with it before, we'll deal with it again."
Zimmerman went 0 for 3 in a win over Miami in his last game April 20, but hit .375 with a homer and five RBIs in the five previous contests.
"We're a resilient team," Zimmerman said. "Anytime anyone gets hurt it's tough, but it's part of the deal. It's a long season and we're going to have to go through adversity. This team has the talent and the capability to do that."
Werth had been hitting behind star rookie Bryce Harper, who went 2 for 3 with a double Sunday and stole home after the Phillies' Cole Hamels intentionally hit him with a pitch. Harper has batted .308 in his eight games.
Zimmerman has gone 1 for 13 in his last four against the Pirates (12-16), who fell 5-0 to Cincinnati on Sunday and scored four runs while dropping two of three in the series.
"You can't get hot in one day," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I saw some big swings up there. ... We start swinging big, we're working to the other team's advantage."
A.J. Burnett (1-2, 8.04 ERA) will attempt to shut down the Nationals, though he's coming off one of the worst outings of his career.
Burnett allowed 12 runs and 12 hits in 2 2-3 innings of a 12-3 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, with his ERA ballooning from the 1.38 mark he entered with.
The right-hander hasn't faced Washington since June 27, 2006, when he threw a six-hitter in a 6-0 win while pitching for Toronto. Burnett is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his last five starts against the Nationals.
He'll be opposed by Edwin Jackson (1-1, 3.69), who allowed four runs in six innings and didn't get a decision in a 5-4 win over Arizona on Wednesday.
The right-hander has gone 4-0 with a 3.13 ERA in five starts against Pittsburgh.
Updated May 7, 2012