Tonight, the Washington Nationals start their second half with a three game series against the Pirates.
The Washington Nationals (54-36) ended the first half of their series by winning three out of four games against the New York Mets. Daniel Murphy went 7-for-17 with three home runs and ten RBI’s against his former team. Meanwhile, his current team has a six game lead over the Mets and Marlins in the NL East.
During Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, Bryce Harper picked up his first All-Star hit, Murphy went 2-for-3, and Max Scherzer threw a perfect sixth inning. Tonight, they start the second half of their season with a three game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates (46-43) at Nats Park.
While Clint Hurdle’s team is 7.5 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central, they ended the first half winning eight of their last ten games and they are now 1.5 games behind New York and Miami for the second Wild Card spot.
This season, the Pirates have scored the fifth most runs in the National League and only one more than the Washington Nationals. Despite a down year from Andrew McCutchen so far (.247, 14 home runs, 38 RBI’s), they have had other players step up such as All-Star left fielder Starling Marte (.316, six home runs, 32 RBI’s, 30 stolen bases), and right fielder Gregory Polanco (.287, 12 home runs, 50 RBI’s).
One of the problems for the Pirates this season has been their starting rotation. Their starters have a 4.83 ERA, which is the fourth worst in the NL. Gerrit Cole has been on the disabled list since June (will be activated Saturday) and they have had two of their prospects (Jameson Tallion and Tyler Glasnow) debut this season.
As for the bullpen, their 3.70 ERA is fifth in the NL. Their closer, Mark Melancon, is 27-for-28 in saves, and has an ERA of 1.23. One other reliever to watch is former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz. He has a 2.88 ERA in 41 games and has held opponents to a .192 batting average.
Before this series starts tonight, check out my breakdown of the three pitching matchups:
Next: Tonight's Matchup