Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nationals vs. Pirates (6/19-6/21)

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Jun 14, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during the fourth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 1-0 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Burnett (6-2, 1.89 ERA) vs. Joe Ross (1-1, 3.46) – 7:05 PM ET, MASN2 + WUSA9

Even at age 38, A.J. Burnett is pitching at an All-Star rate. The 38-year-old right-hander has given up two runs or fewer in eight of his last ten starts. Last season, Burnett had a 4.59 ERA and gave up 109 runs when he was with the Phillies. Now that he’s back in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2013, Burnett has become one of the veteran leaders in the rotation.

In his last start against the Phillies, he went nine innings, gave up no runs on five hits, struck out four, and walked one in a no-decision. He has thrown 85.2 innings this season, which is top ten in the National League. One of the problems in the past for Burnett has been his control. While he does have 24 walks this season, he has walked just six batters in his last five outings.

Against the Nationals, Burnett is 12-5 in 23 outings with a 3.19 ERA. Last season, he was 4-2 with a 3.57 ERA as a member of the Phillies. The guy to watch is Anthony Rendon, who is 7-for-16 with three home runs and nine RBI’s against him.

Even with Doug Fister back, Joe Ross remains in the rotation and will be making his third career start tonight. So far, the 22-year-old has been great with his control as he has only walked one batter in his two starts. Last time out, against the Brewers, Ross went eight innings, gave up two runs on seven hits, struck out eight, and walked one to get his first win in the big leagues.

Ross’ last start was critical when you consider that the Nats had lost the first two games to the Brewers in that series. The right-hander has a strong fastball and has been able to get hitters to hit the ball on the ground. He has 25 combined groundball outs in two games.

Advantage: While I give Ross a good chance in this game, it is a tall order to beat A.J. Burnett, who has been one of the best pitchers in the National League this season. With the Nationals having consistency issues on offense and Pittsburgh’s rotation pitching well right now, I give the Pirates the slight edge in this one, but Ross will keep the Nats in this game.

Next: Tomorrow's Matchup