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

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Jul 2, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the second inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer (10-8, 2.09) vs. Jeff Locke (5-6, 4.01) – 7:05 PM ET, MASN2 and MLB Network

Last time out, Max Scherzer had to go up against Zack Greinke and was not able to get any run support from his offense. The ace went six innings, gave up one run on seven hits, struck out eight, and walked one. However, the one mistake he made occurred in the fourth inning when he threw a wild pitch, which allowed the runner to score.

Scherzer walked a batter for the first time since June 14, but he has shown great control of his pitches this season. In that no-hitter on June 20 against the Pirates, which was nearly a perfect game, he struck out ten batters. That performance is the only time in the last ten starts in which Scherzer has struck out double-digit hitters.

Counting that no-hitter, Scherzer is 4-2 with a 2.53 ERA in eight career starts against the Pirates. McCutchen is 4-for-17 against him with one home run and three RBI’s.

Locke doesn’t get a lot of attention in the Pirates rotation, but he has put together some quality starts as of late. In his last seven outings, the 27-year-old left-hander has posted a 1.96 ERA. He has not given up more than three earned runs in an outing in his last eight starts. The last time he did that was June 6 against the Braves.

Despite putting up good stat lines, Locke has lost three of his last four starts, a stretch in which he has given up just six runs. However, the Pirates have scored only one run in each of those games. At PNC Park, Locke has a 2.58 ERA as opposed to a 6.57 ERA on the road.

He has faced the Nationals twice in his career and has a 2.53 ERA, but has yet to have a decision. The only Nats player to have a RBI against Locke is Ian Desmond (1-for-3).

Advantage: While Locke has pitched well in his home park this season, it’s tough to predict against Max Scherzer, especially when he did have a good outing against a tough lineup last time out. He won’t throw another no-hitter here, but the Nationals will find a way to get the win.

Next: Saturday's Matchup