Jul 20, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper (34) hits a single in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Pirates Vs. Nationals Series Preview

After a disappointing series loss against the Reds at Great American Ballpark, the Pirates will head to our nation’s capitol for a four game set with the Nationals. The Washington Nationals are 48-50 on the year, not exactly where they hoped to be after last season. They were swept by the Dodgers over the weekend following the All-Star break.

*Pitching Matchups:

Game One: Charlie Morton (1-2, 3.19) Vs. Dan Haren (4-10, 5.61): Morton has been solid throughout this season, albeit less than dazzling. Against the Nationals in his career, Morton is 0-2, with a 4.11 ERA and a WHIP of 1.500. Dan Haren is having the worst season of his career, statistically. While he’s had a rough time of it this season, his last start was a good one, in which he threw six shutout innings against Miami, but ended up with a no decision. Against the Pirates in his career, he’s 3-1, with an ERA of 4.50, and a WHIP of 1.409.

Game Two: Gerrit Cole (4-3, 3.89) Vs. Taylor Jordan (0-2, 3.32): Cole started his major league career off with four straight wins, and has since lost three straight. He’s been good in his first season in the big leagues, but not great. While Cole has had some starts be shorter and less effective than desired, he has yet to give up more than three earned runs in any of his starts. Jordan is another rookie like Cole, and he’s had only four big league starts to this point. He’s a four pitch guy, with a sinker, a four seam fastball, a changeup, and a slider.

Game Three: Francisco Liriano (9-4, 2.44) Vs. Stephen Strasburg (5-7, 2.97): Liriano took his first loss in over a month in his last start, a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Reds. Strasburg has been good this year, but less than stellar of late, over the last four weeks, he’s had five starts, in which he’s thrown twenty-nine innings, and holds an ERA of 4.66.

Game Four: A.J. Burnett (4-7, 3.07) Vs. Gio Gonzalez (7-3, 2.89): Burnett’s had a few underwhelming starts during his last few opportunities on the hill, but still has strong numbers on the season. Gonzalez has been great again this year, his ERA currently matches his ERA for the 2012 season, and he’s getting 9.0 K/9 so far. Over his last four starts, he’s only given up four earned runs.

*All starters listed are probable

Pirates Players To Watch:

Andrew McCutchen: He’s not mashing at the otherworldly rate he was last summer, but the man they call Cutch is on fire right now, hitting .368/.455/.618 over the last four weeks. Who’s having a down year? Not this guy.

 Russell Martin: Martin’s been cooling off a bit at the plate, over the last two weeks, he’s hitting .174/.269/.304, and he needs to start turning things around soon.

Mark Melancon: You really can’t say enough about how good Melancon has been this season, he’s only looked mortal on two occasions all year. One of those occasions was on Sunday, when he walked a couple of Reds, and gave up one of the five runs he’s allowed all season. Thankfully he bounced back during that outing, and he should continue to dominate going forward.

Nationals Players To Watch: 

Bryce Harper: Whether he deserved it or not, Harper was an all-star this year, which makes him worth taking note of. Harper hasn’t been doing so well of late, though, batting .206/325/.333 over the last four weeks. We’ll have to see if his struggles will continue throughout this series as well.

Adam Laroche: After a career year in 2012, ex-Pirates Adam Laroche is coming back to earth. His season numbers are in line with the rest of his career, but over the last two weeks, he’s hitting .148/.179/.185, his only extra base hit in that span is a double.

Stephen Strasburg: Can Strasburg turn things around, after having a rough time over the last month? This year his ERA is far and away better at home, so he’ll hope to continue that trend against the Pirates on Wednesday.

Series Notes:

The Nationals lead the season series two games to one, having taken two of three from the Pirates in early May.

The Pirates and Nationals are both coming off series losses, the Pirates dropped two of three to the Reds, and the Nationals were swept by the Dodgers over the weekend.

The last time the Pirates and Nationals got together, this happened to Bryce Harper. It stands as the ump show of the year so far.

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