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

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Jun 14, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer (31) pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Francisco Liriano (4-5, 2.94) vs. Max Scherzer (7-5, 1.93) – 4:05 PM ET, MASN2 and WUSA9

This matchup on Saturday afternoon is the best pitching matchup of the weekend on paper because it features two pitchers that are some of the best strikeout throwers in the National League.

For Francisco Liriano, he is coming into this start off back-to-back eight inning shutout performances. In his last start against the White Sox, he gave up two hits, walked one, and struck out 12. He has struck out ten or more batters in three of his last five starts. In three starts this month, he is 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings.

If there is one thing to nitpick about the 31-year-old lefty, it’s the fact that he has walked 27 batters this season. However, he has just three walks in June and opponents this season are hitting .176 against him. In two starts against the Nats, he is 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA. Denard Span has the most hits of any Nats player against Liriano (4-for-9 with a RBI).

As for Max Scherzer, he is coming off of a historic outing against the Brewers. Last Sunday, he threw a complete game one-hit shutout, struck out 16 batters (a Nats record) and walked one. The only hit Scherzer gave up was a bloop base hit to Carlos Gomez in the seventh inning. After giving up four earned runs in his last two starts, the 30-year-old right-hander was back to true form.

He has thrown 100 or more pitches in his last six starts and opponents are hitting .195 against him this season. He is second in the National League in innings pitched and ERA. Against the Pirates, Scherzer is 3-2 with a 3.05 ERA in seven games (six starts). Andrew McCutchen is 4-for-14 against him with a home run and three RBI’s.

Advantage: This is a game that should be low scoring based on the way these two pitchers can rack up the strikeouts. Both starters have had their best stuff as of late, but I think Scherzer edges out Liriano this one in a 2-1 kind of game. The Nationals still have offensive issues, but they do just enough for Scherzer.

Next: Sunday's Matchup