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

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Jun 16, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning in an inter-league game at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Morton (5-0, 1.62) vs. Gio Gonzalez (4-4, 4.82) – 1:35 PM ET, MASN2 and WUSA9

With all the talk about Gerrit Cole, Burnett, and Liriano, Charlie Morton goes under the radar in Clint Hurdle’s rotation. In his five starts this season, he has gone into the seventh inning or later in four of them. When you look at the 31-year-old’s number, he is not going to be a pitcher that strikes out a ton of batters (15 in 33.1 innings).

However, like Doug Fister, he is a pitcher that relies on the groundball outs. He has ten or more groundball outs in all five outings, including 20 in his first start of the year against the Marlins. Last season, Morton went 6-12 with a 3.72 ERA. Against the Nationals in his career, he is 2-3 with a 4.70 ERA in six starts. The Nats player to watch in this one is Wilson Ramos. Ramos is 5-for-11 with a RBI against Morton.

Last time out, Gio Gonzalez was not able to get out of the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. He went 3.1 innings, gave up five runs on eight hits, struck out one, and walked three. Gonzalez has not won a game since May 24 against the Phillies, which is a span of four starts.

In three starts this month, the 29-year-old left-hander has a 5.17 ERA, but his main problem has been the walks, which tend to lead to big innings. In his last four starts, he has walked 12 batters. Right now, Gonzalez’s 31 walks are in the top five in the National League.

Against the Pirates, Gonzalez is 2-0 with a 3.64 ERA in five starts. Josh Harrison, the Pirates’ second baseman, is 5-for-9 against him with two home runs and five RBI’s.

Advantage: Right now, it is tough to trust Gonzalez when he is walking batters left and right. While Morton doesn’t have stuff that will blow you away, he is a pitcher that is going to get you to hit ground balls to get out of an inning. With the Pirates on a roll right now, I like Pittsburgh to come into Nats Park and take two out of three.

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