Originally written May 03, 2013 on The Nats Blog:
  The Washington Nationals (15-14) just split a series against their rival Atlanta Braves by winning the final two games of a four-game series at Turner Field. They will look to keep that momentum going as they continue their road trip up north against the Pittsburg Pirates (16-12). The Pirates started out hot at the beginning of last season, and had a first-place 48-37 record at the All-Star break before finishing the year under .500 and in fourth place in the NL Central (79-83). This year, they have had a similarly strong start and currently sit in second place in the NL Central, one game behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals. The Nationals and the Pirates are set to face each other seven times this year, and after going 2-3 against them last year the Nats will be looking to start the season series off right with a win. Martin the Masher Last season with the Yankees was one of the worst of catcher Russell Martin’s career. He finished with a .211/.311/.403 slash line and 95 strikeouts, the most of his career. However, he did hit the most home runs he’s hit in a single season of his career (21), and he has come out swinging for the fences again in 2013. Martin is not usually a home run hitter – his next homer will be just the 100th of his eight-year career – but he has hit all six of his home runs this year in his last twelve games. His current batting average is .274 and he leads the Pirates in slugging percentage (.560) He is a .229 career hitter against Nationals pitchers with 18 strikeouts in 83 at-bats. Though he has hit one home run against the Nats, we will see if his hot-hitting ways continue in this series against a team that that has given up just 26 home runs all year (eighth lowest in the majors). Star Power A.J. Burnett, the Pirates' ace who has been one of their most valuable assets so far this season, will start in the series opener. Burnett has the most strikeouts in the National League (48), and has been striking out batters at a rate of 12.3 per nine innings. He also has the 10th-lowest batting average against in the majors (.211). Conversely, the face of their franchise, center fielder Andrew McCutchen, has been underperforming. The two-time All-Star is batting .238 with a .297 on-base percentage and only three home runs. Despite the lack of contribution from their star, the Pirates have continued to win games, which MLB.com reporter Tom Singer thinks is a good sign for the Pirates chances of success, as their success in the past has correlated strongly with McCutchen's performance.  McCutchen has an impressive history of accomplishments against the Nationals. He is batting .500 against Nationals pitchers in 42 career at-bats with five home runs and five strikeouts, and he will be looking for his bat to come alive against them again in his home park. Burnett is 7-3 with a 3.33 ERA against the Nationals in 15 appearances, and current Nats have a .250 batting average against him with 33 strikeouts and four home runs. Injury Update Bryce Harper should remain in the lineup as he continues to play with a bruised side. Jayson Werth may miss a few days with a tight hamstring. In The Zone Ian Desmond (SS) .346 AVG, .370 OBP, .654 SLG, 1 HR (last seven games) Who’s Hot? Russell Martin (C) .409 AVG, .409 OBP, 1.045 SLG, 4 HR (last five games) Starling Marte (LF) .320 AVG, .414 OBP, .600 SLG, 2 HR (last six games) Who’s Not? Pedro Alvarez (3B) .208 AVG, .231 OBP, .333 SLG, 7 SO (last six games) Andrew McCutchen (CF) .250 AVG, .286 OBP, .400 SLG, 3 SO (last five games) Probable Starters 5/3, Ross Detwiler (1-2, 2.03 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 16 SO) vs. A.J. Burnett (2-2, 2.83 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 48 SO) 5/4, Stephen Strasburg (1-4, 3.13 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 36 SO) vs. Jeff Locke (3-1, 2.83 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 16 SO) 5/5, Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 5.34 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 36 SO) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (2-1, ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 18 SO) The Nats Blog will be taking the weekend off from providing post-game coverage, but we will be back on Tuesday for the series against the Detroit Tigers.
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