Nationals Go North To Face Pirates In Pittsburgh

After their storied season in 2013, the Pittsburgh Pirates (19-26) aren’t quite the Cinderella they were last year. The carriage that carried them to the postseason turned back into a pumpkin, and they once again find themselves with a losing record.

When the Washington Nationals (24-22) head north to PNC Park they shouldn’t give the Pirates much leeway to climb back toward .500.

The Pirates’ offense is largely mediocre, with the exception of individual standouts such as last year’s NL MVP Andrew McCutchen. Pittsburgh hitters collectively have a slash line of .249/.321/.382, all of which stand near the middle of the rankings. They are averaging 3.9 runs per game, and their -24 run differential is one of the worst in baseball.

The Nationals’ offense has fared similarly to the Pirates’ with an average of four runs per game and a slash line of .247/.311/.388, but their run differential is at positive six.

The difference between the Nationals and the Pirates lies in each team’s pitching.

The Pirates have a 4.00 ERA, which ranks 18th among major league teams, while the Nationals have a fifth-best 3.23 ERA. The Pirates also place low in most other pitching categories, with 321 strikeouts (26th), a .261 opponent batting average (21st) and a 1.32 WHIP (17th).

The Pirates’ pitching numbers are inflated somewhat by the performance of their starters. The starting rotation has a 4.60 ERA, but the bullpen has a fifth-best 2.94 ERA. The Nationals bullpen has an MLB-best 2.13 ERA.

Both teams have dealt with their fair share of injuries, though the Nationals have weathered the storm enough to be 1.5 games behind the NL East’s first place Atlanta Braves. The Pirates haven’t dealt with changes from last year as well, and are in fourth place and just 2.5 games ahead of the Chicago Cubs, who are in last place in the NL Central and hold MLB’s worst record.

With the stats stacking up the way they do, the Nationals should be able to take advantage of the Pirates’ inconsistencies to win the four-game series.

In The Zone

Denard Span (CF) .429 AVG, .448 OBP, .643 SLG, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB

Who’s Hot?

Starling Marte (LF) .350 AVG, .381 OBP, .800 SLG, 5 RBI 2 HR (last six games)

Andrew McCutchen (CF) .350 AVG, .480 OBP, .450 SLG, 2 RBI, 2 2B (last six games)

Who’s Not?

Neil Walker (2B) .208 AVG, .240 OBP, .333 SLG, 4 SO, 1 BB (last six games)

Jordy Mercer (SS) .200 AVG, .200 OBP, .250 SLG, 7 SO, 0 BB (last five games)

Probable Starters

5/22, Blake Treinen (0-1, 0.77 ERA, .346 BAA, 9 SO, 2 SO) vs. Edinson Volquez (1-4, 4.71 ERA, .245 AVG, 28 SO, 13 BB)

5/23, Jordan Zimmermann (3-1, 3.70 ERA, .301 BAA, 43 SO, 10 BB) vs. Charlie Morton (0-6, 3.45 ERA, .252 BAA, 37 SO, 18 BB)

5/24, Stephen Strasburg (3-3, 3.38 ERA, .264 BAA, 74 SO, 16 BB) vs. Gerrit Cole (4-3, 3.84 ERA, .267 BAA, 53 SO, 18 BB)

5/25, Doug Fister (1-1, 3.93 ERA, .270 BAA, 13 SO, 1 BB) vs. TBD

Erin Flynn

About Erin Flynn

Erin is the Lead Beat Writer and Copy Editor for The Nats Blog. She is a journalism major at University of Richmond, and spends entirely too much time thinking about baseball.