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

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Jul 2, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (47) pitches in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Doug Fister (3-5, 4.30 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (5-6, 2.98) – 7:05 PM ET, broadcast on MASN and MLB Network

In his last start against the Dodgers back on July 18, Fister went five innings, gave up four runs on nine hits, struck out one, and walked two on 91 pitches. The Dodgers only got four runs against him, but they hit a lot of his pitches hard in the loss.

Since returning to the rotation, the 31-year-old left-hander has given up four runs or more in three of his five starts. The one positive from that his last start was that he was able to induce ten groundball outs, which is the third time he has done that in his last five starts. If he leaves too many pitches up in the zone tonight, Pittsburgh will make him pay.

In his career against the Pirates, Fister is 1-1 with a 1.07 ERA in four starts. Last season, he gave up one run on three hits in two starts while picking up a win. McCutchen and first baseman Pedro Alvarez each have four hits against him, but they have not had a RBI.

As for Liriano, the 31-year-old left-hander returns to the rotation for the first time since July 12 after being scratched from his last start due to a neck injury. In that outing against the Cardinals, he went 6.1 innings, gave up two runs on five hits, struck out six, and walked four in a no-decision.

While Liriano has held opponents to a .192 average this season, he has walked 39 batters this season, including having three or more walks in three of his last four starts. Despite the high walk rate, he still has a 1.03 WHIP and he is fifth in the NL in strikeouts (125). Liriano was the starter that went up against Scherzer on June 20 during his no-hitter.

He went 5.2 innings, gave up five runs on seven hits, struck out six, walked one, and gave up a home run to Bryce Harper. The Nats were able to put four of those runs up in the bottom of the sixth.Including that start, Liriano is 1-2 vs. Washington with a 4.42 ERA in three outings. Harper is 2-for-3 against him with that aforementioned home run.

Advantage: This matchup is tough to predict because Fister has struggled, but Liriano hasn’t pitched in over ten days because of the neck issue. I would expect this to be a high scoring game, but I like the Pirates to win a 7-5 type of ball game. Pittsburgh will take care of one too many mistakes by Fister.

Next: Tomorrow's Matchup