It continues to be a week of learning who the 2016 Nationals are. Adversity comes in different ways, and the Nationals have only won one game since Murphy went down with an injury. We have heard all of the sports cliches when a team is losing like “no need to panic, there’s plenty of time left.” Time is whittling down as there are only nine games remaining in the regular season. “You’re never as bad as you look when you are losing” is how some of us are trying to rationalize the Nationals 1-5 record in the last six games.
The Nationals have a Magic Number of 2 in the N.L. East to clinch the division, and only needs to go 2-7 in the remaining nine games to hoist another division’s champion flag. But in the here and now, we want to see this team finish strong.
The champagne will have to wait, and as mentioned with the Giants and Cardinals losing last night, the Nationals last night have assured themselves at the very least a tie for the second Wild Card. That is not a consolation prize the Nats care to talk about. A win tonight guarantees the Nats are in the post-season as a Wild Card, and at least a tie for the NL East crown—but you don’t pop champagne for that.
The bigger prize the Nationals covet at this point is home field advantage for the NLDS. That Nationals hold a 1 1/2 game advantage over the Dodgers for that home field advantage, but that lead went from a sure thing to a margin that is too close for comfort.
Tonight, it will be Joe Ross to get this team righted on the path back to trending up. The team will once again be without Daniel Murphy who continues to nurse his sore gluteus maximus. Stephen Drew has done a very good job at filling in, and Ryan Zimmerman‘s bat has heated up. Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner are scuffling a bit.
The Pirates are pitching right-handed Ivan Nova who they acquired from the New York Yankees. The Pirates continue to hold onto their slim hopes of securing a Wild Card spot.
Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates
Stadium: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, ROOT Sports Pittsburgh, MLB.TV
Line-ups (subject to change without notice):
- Trea Turner CF
- Jayson Werth LF
- Bryce Harper RF
- Anthony Rendon 3B
- Wilson Ramos C
- Stephen Drew 2B
- Ryan Zimmerman 1B
- Danny Espinosa SS
- Joe Ross RHP