Washington Nationals: 5 To watch in visit to Pittsburgh

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May 10, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli (29) is greeted by third baseman Josh Harrison (5) after hitting a two run home run in the ninth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda (not pictured) at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
May 10, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli (29) is greeted by third baseman Josh Harrison (5) after hitting a two run home run in the ninth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda (not pictured) at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /
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Washington Nationals
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Gerrit Cole

Despite the Pirates struggles this season, Cole has been the definition of consistency and has been the ace of their staff. Out of the eight outings he has had, he has given up three runs or fewer in seven of them and two runs or fewer in six straight outings.

In those eight starts, the 26-year-old right-hander has a 3.06 ERA and has thrown 50 innings (eighth most in the NL). He gave up two runs in seven innings against Arizon on May 11, but lost a pitcher’s duel to Zack Greinke.

The problem for Cole this season is that the Pirates haven’t given him much run support. The team has scored a combined seven runs in his last six starts and he hasn’t picked up a win since April 14 against the Cubs.

One pitch that Cole is having a lot of success with this season is his slider. According to Brooks Baseball, teams are hitting .211 against the slider with three extra-base hits (one home run) and 38 strikeouts. Of course, it helps when your average fastball velocity is over 96 miles per hour (according to Fangraphs).

With Cole under contract for a few more seasons (free agent in 2020), the Pirates could get a lot back in return if they decide to deal him at the deadline. The question is do they view him as the future ace for the franchise and can they afford to pay that price?

Against the Washington Nationals, Cole is 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA in four career starts. Two hitters to watch are Adam Lind and Daniel Murphy, who each have a pair of RBI’s against him. Lind could start at first base if Dusty Baker decides to give Zimmerman the day off.

Regardless of whomever the Washington Nationals decide to throw tomorrow, it will be a tough one to win if that starter gives up a couple runs early because Cole can shut down any lineup.

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