4-28-23 – By Christian Wolf – @CWolfPGH on Twitter
After an exciting series against the Dodgers, the Pirates hit the road to Washington to begin a six-game road trip.
When & Who:
Pittsburgh Pirates (18-8) at Washington Nationals (9-15)
Game 1 – (4/28 7:05 EST)
For the Pirates – Rich Hill (2-2, 4.85 ERA)
For the Nationals – Chad Kuhl (0-1, 7.36 ERA)
Game 2 – (4/29, 1:05 EST)
For the Pirates – Vince Velasquez (3-2, 3.76 ERA)
For the Nationals – Patrick Corbin (1-3, 5.88 ERA)
Game 3 – (4/30, 1:35 EST)
For the Pirates – Johan Oviedo (2-1, 3.03 ERA)
For the Nationals – Josiah Gray (1-4, 2.93 ERA)
The Nationals, after starting the season 5-13, have put together a string of recent success, winning back-to-back series on the road against the Twins and Mets. The Nationals rotation has improved as of late, currently sitting 16th in MLB with a 4.45 ERA, but 25th in MLB in strikeouts with 110. The offense has been an issue, with the team OPS ranking 26th in baseball at .665. The Nationals also rank 29th in MLB with just 14 home runs on the season. But, despite these lackluster numbers, the back-to-back series wins shouldn’t be ignored, and the Nationals are hot going up against another hot team.
That other hot team would be the Pirates, coming into this series winners of 9 of their past 10 games, with both the offense and pitching staff giving beautiful work throughout the majority of the season. The Pirates’ offense has put together 223 hits as a team, good for 7th in MLB, and once they get on the bases, they are to contain. The Bucs lead all of MLB with 37 stolen bases, and for context, the 2nd best team in steals is Cleveland with 31. (Side note – can you believe the Twins only have two stolen bases on the year??). Meanwhile, the Pirates rotation ranks 7th in MLB with its 3.72 ERA and ranks among the top 10 of the league in many other categories including strikeouts, average against, and innings pitched.
For the Nationals – Keibert Ruiz: The Nationals catcher collected three hits and a walk Tuesday in the Nationals’ 5-0 win over the Mets and also reached base twice on Wednesday. Ruiz is carrying a five-game hitting streak into the series against the Pirates, with his average at .284 and OPS at .763.
For the Pirates – Jack Suwinski: What a turnaround for the Pirates outfielder. Suwinski is carrying a five-game hitting streak into this series and has looked much better at the plate after a slow start. He’s been generating walks and being much more patient at the dish. Suwinski not only has a .276 average with five home runs, but his OPS is sitting exactly at 1.000 for the season.
For the Nationals – Dominic Smith: Smith has had a slow start to the season, registering a .232 average and just a .567 OPS. He’s gone just 2 for 12 in his last three games, including three strikeouts and just one walk. He also has yet to record a home run this season.
For the Pirates – Connor Joe: Although Joe homered in the Pirates’ 6-2 win over the Dodgers Thursday, that was his first hit in his past five games, and went just 1 for 13 against the Dodgers, racking up five strikeouts and no walks.
Series Overview & Prediction
The Pirates have won nine of ten, but the Nationals have surprised recently and took back-to-back series on the road against the Twins and Mets. The Nationals are not a talented team on the surface, but they have done enough as of late to win some ball games. But the Pirates are on a tear, and if it wasn’t for a late home run given up by the Bucs’ bullpen, the Pirates very well might be on a ten-game winning streak. When the rotation and offense are clicking, wins rack up fast, and the Pirates have shown that.
The Nationals putting Chad Kuhl and Patrick Corbin on the mound for two of the three games does not inspire a lot of confidence, and the Bucs are mashing the ball, scoring six runs or more in each of the games against the Dodgers. Vince Velasquez and Rich Hill have been solid as of late as well.
The vibes surrounding the Pirates are thrilling. The team has signed Bryan Reynolds long-term, is leading the NL Central, and is on the radar for its opponents on the schedule. It’s a great feeling, and Pittsburgh deserves it.
Why not keep it going? I think the Bucs will take two of three from Washington. The team has not shown any signs of slowing down, and heading to Washington should not change that.