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

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Jul 10, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Ross (2-2, 2.70) vs. Gerrit Cole (13-4, 2.31) – 1:35 PM ET, MASN 2 + WUSA9

In his first start since returning to the rotation, Joe Ross pitched well against Jacob deGrom, but was unable to get the win. On Tuesday, the 22-year-old right-hander went 6.1 innings, gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits, struck out four, and did not a walk batter on 88 pitches.

Ross showed good command of his fastball and slider, but he had only thrown a maximum of five innings in each of his five starts at triple-A, so you have to wonder if fatigue was a factor in that game. However, he goes up against a team on Sunday that he had good success against back in June.

In that outing against the Pirates on June 19, Ross went 7.1 innings, gave up one run on six hits, struck out 11, and walked one in the win. Gregory Polanco was 2-for-3 in that game with a RBI for the Pirates. After going up against deGrom in his last start, he will face another one of the best pitchers in the National League on Sunday.

This season, the 24-year-old right-hander was named to the All-Star team and for good reason. Cole has the most wins in the NL and has the fourth lowest ERA. Plus, he has given up three runs or fewer in nine of his last ten starts.

In his last outing against the Royals on July 21, Cole went 7.1 innings, gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits, struck out six, and did not walk a batter, but he lost the game 3-1.

One of the things Cole has done well in his short career is that he knows how to shake off a bad start. He has not lost two games in a row in almost two years (August 2013). In two starts against the Nats, he is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA. Wilson Ramos is 2-for-5 against him with a home run.

Advantage: While I do think Joe Ross will pitch well and keep the Nats in this game, going up against a pitcher like Cole is going to be a tall task, especially since he rarely ever has two bad starts in a row. There’s a first time for everything, but I like the Pirates to win this game and gain a split of the four game series.

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