Series preview: Pirates vs Nationals

The Washington Nationals are back home to start a three-game weekend set against the Pirates (weather permitting). The Nationals finally started playing quality baseball against their division foe, the New York Mets. Washington played three games in New York, winning two out of three but dropping the series finale 9-8 after taking an 8-7 lead in top of the eighth inning. Which was the team with the $400 million payroll, and the one with the $100 million payroll?

That three-game stretch in NYC had more positives than negatives for the Nationals, as C.J. Abrams took the lead in yesterday’s game with a jaw-dropping grand slam. Abrams tied for the youngest Nationals player with a grand slam with Ryan Zimmerman who hit a grand slam on 4/22/07 in his sophomore season, and by the way, Zim and Abrams were both 22 years and 206 days old. Nationals starters also had strong outings at Citi Field, and it’s starting to look like MacKenzie Gore is for real, and Josiah Gray‘s gem moved him into the team lead for starter’s ERA. This would be a relief for Nationals fans, as some are still bitter about the Juan Soto and Josh Bell blockbuster trade last summer as well as the Max Scherzer and Trea Turner blockbuster trade the summer before that..

Meanwhile, the Pirates were expected to be one of the worst teams in the National League this season but, surprisingly, are tallying wins and have the best record in the entire National League. Currently, the Pirates have secured first place in the N.L. Central, with 18 wins. The Pittsburgh squad is well-rounded, helping them to succeed and surprise at a high level.

Currently, the Nationals sit at the bottom of the N.L. East with a 9-15 record, but not close to the worst record in the Majors. The Nationals are playing nearly mistake-free baseball as of late, but it needs to continue if they are to pass the Marlins in the division. The Pirates have won nine of their last ten.

Tale of the Tape

Divisional Standings1st5th
All-Time Matchup Record311-331331-311
Team Average.248 (14).258 (8)
Runs93 (27)132 (T-7)
Hits203 (T-20)223 (T-7)
Home Runs14 (29)30 (13)
K%18.5% (1)20.7% (4)
OBP.320 (15).334 (9)
ERA4.16 (14)3.60 (8)
WHIP1.35 (21)1.29 (16)
K’s180 (30)132 (8)
Run Differential-12 (21)+31 (5)
Errors17 (T-3)17 (T-3)

Scouting the lineup

Projected starting lineupABBAHHRRBIOPSWAR
3B Ke’Bryan Hayes96.2292219.6671.0
LF Bryan Reynolds93.30128520.8780.6
DH Andrew McCutchen81.27222513.8770.7
1B Carlos Santana92.26124213.7320.6
CF Jack Suwinski58.276165131.0010.0
RF Connor Joe69.30421310.9720.8
SS Rodolfo Castro68.27919312.8530.4
2B Ji Hwan Bae71.2541829.6780.0
C Austin Hedges35.171603.437-0.2

The Pirates are a fun team, primarily because of the mix of veterans and young players. The season started with disappointing injury news as star shortstop Oneil Cruz was injured sliding into home plate. Cruz is expected back later this season, but until then, Rodolfo Castro is starting in his place. Leading off for the Pirates is third-baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, who had a stellar rookie season but has yet to match his success. Hayes is a defensive pro. However, some still view his bat as a liability. The 26-year-old hasn’t been awful at the plate this season, but the Pirates will keep a close watch on the third baseman.

Meanwhile, Bryan Reynolds has been a force for the Bucs for a couple of years. The former all-star is a leader on and off the field and has started his 2023 campaign strong. Reynolds smashed a career-high 27 homers last year and has recorded five this season, and just signed a contract extension earlier in the week. The Pirates have a few veterans, including Carlos Santana, Andrew McCutchen, and Ji Man Choi. There’s no question McCutchen is a fan favorite and even if Cutch doesn’t put up a productive season, the fans will love him. In addition, Carlos Santana joined the Pirates, and at 37 years old, he can still smash the baseball. Santana is currently second on the team with 24 hits.

Probable Pitching Matchups

PSA: The Nationals announced that Friday’s game will be postponed.

Per Nationals’ twitter, “This game will be made up tomorrow as part of a split-admission doubleheader. Game 1 will begin at 1:05 PM as originally scheduled. Game 2, the postponed game, will begin at 6:05 PM.”

Sat 4/29 – Rich Hill (2-2) 4.85 ERA vs. Patrick Corbin (1-3) 5.88 ERA

Game time – 1:05

Sat 4/29 – Vince Velasquez (3-2) 3.76 ERA vs. Chad Kuhl (0-1) 7.36 ERA

Game time – 6:05

Sun 4/30 – Johan Oviedo (2-1) 3.03 ERA vs. Josiah Gray (1-4) 2.93 ERA

Game time – 1:35

Betting Nuggets

Favorite: Pirates (-134)

Underdog: Nationals (+114)

Over/Under: 8.5

Broadcast Information

Television: Nationals fans will be able to watch all three games against the Pirates on MASN. Furthermore, the Friday and Saturday contests will be nationally broadcast on MLBN.

Local Radio: 106.7 is the flagship station of the Washington Nationals. Find all listings here. Play-by-play broadcasters Dave Jageler and Charlie Slowes will call the action. All games will be available to listen to on the radio.

Prediction: The Nationals will continue their hot streak and win two against the Pirates before hosting Chicago.

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