It seems like it was yesterday that the Pirates and Nationals were the two laughing stocks of the league. They were the worst teams around and everybody loved to play them. When these two teams got together to play, both team’s fan bases were filled with optimism that they could have a winning series due to the other team’s horribleness.
Both teams have improved since those days. Neither team is a pushover anymore. The Nationals have improved a lot faster than the Pirates, however, and they have the best record in the National League right now. While nobody expects the Pirates to finish last this year, they certainly don’t look much like a playoff team right now.
The difference between these two teams right now is the Nationals prospects getting to the big leagues faster, and Washington’s offseason spending. Free agent signings Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez have given the Nats a big boost this year. For as good as they have been, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are the faces of this franchise and they have been the storyline all year. The whole league watches Harper nightly and Strasburg looks like a Cy Young candidate.
Oh yeah, and they still have a star in Ryan Zimmerman plus a few really good young pitchers in Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler. This team is much better than the Pirates.
So do the Pirates have a chance in this series? The answer to that is always yes, just because we’re talking about baseball. Anything can happen in a given game. There’s not much of a chance for the Pirates to win more games than the Nationals this year, but there’s certainly a chance for them to win more this series.
Here’s the pitching match ups for the series:
Edwin Jackson (1-1, 3.69) vs. A.J. Burnett (1-2, 8.04)
Sure, the numbers favor Jackson. However, Burnett has been very good in two of his three starts and the Nationals offense isn’t that great. Burnett could very well throw another gem, and it’s not like Jackson is unhittable. He has some really good nights and some not so good ones. If the Pirates get one of those not so good ones they could win this game. In fact, I might even go as far as to say the Pirates should be favored. They won’t be, especially with Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman returning tonight to give the Nats a boost, but this is a very winnable game for the Pirates.
Ross Detwiler (3-1, 1.59) vs. Erik Bedard (2-4, 2.65)
Just a really good pitching matchup. Bedard has been very good for us and has put the Pirates in a position to win every game he’s pitched in. Detwiler has had a very good start to the year but hasn’t always been dominant in his career. He’s young and talented, but he’s not a Strasburg. You can score on this guy, although he’s only been scored upon in three of five starts, and two of the starts he did get scored on he gave up just one run. The Nationals have to be favored here, but it’s not a huge differential. The Pirates will have to score a few runs, but with a healthy Andrew McCutchen and a new and improved Pedro Alvarez, it could happen.
Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.66) vs. Kevin Correia (1-2, 3.38)
This one is a different story. If there’s ever a game that you feel the Pirates don’t have a chance, it’ this one. Correia has been bad in his last two starts and Strasburg is a huge strikeout pitcher, just the type that absolutely dominate the Pirates. Correia faced on with Clayton Kershaw earlier in the year and kept it close but the Pirates just couldn’t score – which is all too common this year. I don’t what the line is going to be, but if I were in Vegas on Thursday I’d certainly be putting some money down on the Nationals.
The Pirates are sitting at 12-16 and 1-2 on this home stand where we were all hoping they would make up some ground. A three game set with the Nationals doesn’t give us the best odds to push our record closer to .500, but baseball is an unpredictable game. Anything could happen in this series, but the odds certainly don’t favor the Pirates. They are going to have to play some really solid baseball to get a win or two out of this series. Either way, it should be fun to watch. Bryce Harper is an electric talent and there aren’t too many pitchers around like Strasburg.
At the end of the day, win or lose, the Pirates get rewarded for their efforts this weekend with a three game set with a team more on their level – the Houston Astros. If the Pirates can squeak out a series win over the Nats and sweep up the ‘Stros, we’ll be sitting at 17-17. Yeah, let’s go with that.