Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats at Pirates (7/23-7/26)

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Jul 20, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates players Francisco Cervelli (left) reacts after scoring with teammate Pedro Alvarez (24) against the Kansas City Royals during the second inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

This week, the Washington Nationals (51-42) were able to win an important series against the New York Mets. Facing the Mets’ top three pitchers, the Nats were able to take two out of three games. It was capped by a comeback win yesterday where the team came back from a 3-1 deficit by scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth against Bobby Parnell.

Overall, the Nats went 3-3 in their first six home games out of the All-Star Break, but they are ahead by three games in the National League East. Plus, their .500 record was good considering they went up against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. However, the Nationals will head on the road for a ten game trip, beginning tonight with a four game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (54-40).

More from Max Scherzer

Last month, the Nationals swept the Pirates and they were able to do that with great performances from their starting rotation. In the three game series, the Nats outscored Pittsburgh 19-3, with one of those games being a no-hitter from Washington’s ace, Max Scherzer.

Despite being swept in the Nation’s Capital, the Pirates finished the month of June with a 17-9 record and Clint Hurdle’s club is 11-7 in the month of July. Currently, they are six games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central lead, but they would be the first Wild Card team if the season ended today.

The Pirates will be throwing their top three pitchers in this weekend’s series at PNC Park and pitching has been the strength of their team. Their starters have 61 quality starts, which is second in the National League, and their rotation’s ERA of 3.18 is fourth in the NL. Two of those three pitchers, Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett, represented the Pirates in the All-Star Game along with center fielder Andrew McCutchen (.290, 12 HR, 57 RBI’s) and closer Mark Melancon (30 saves).

While Pittsburgh is only 19th in runs scored in MLB this season, they have had a good month of July at the plate. The team has scored 72 runs, which is tied for third in the NL. McCutchen has driven in 12 runs this month while second baseman Neil Walker  is hitting .316 with 13 RBI’s the month. In addition to those guys, keep an eye on left fielder Starling Marte. Marte is hitting .289 with 13 home runs, has 50 RBI’s and has a .326 batting average in the month of July.

Two notable absentees for Pittsburgh this series as opposed to the series in DC last month are shortstop Jordy Mercer and third baseman Josh Harrison. Mercer is on the disabled list with a leg contusion after being slid into by Carlos Gomez last weekend. As for Harrison, he has been out since July 6 due to torn ligaments in his thumb.

Let’s take a look at who has the edge in each of the pitching matchups for this four game series:

Next: Tonight's Matchup