Washington Nationals Series Preview: Seven-game home stand begins against Pittsburgh Pirates

As the top of June approaches, the Washington Nationals return residence after a successful highway journey for the primary time this season after splitting a two-game set with the Baltimore Orioles earlier than taking two of three in opposition to the Texas Rangers over the weekend.

The Nationals seemed sturdy in Arlington due to some spectacular beginning pitching performances from Paolo Espino, Josiah Grey, and Jackson Tetreault.

The three starters mixed to throw 18.1 innings permitting simply 4 earned runs on 14 hits and 4 walks whereas putting out 16. For a crew that’s so not often gotten first rate size and efficiency out of their beginning pitching this season, the sequence in Texas supplied some hope.

Subsequent, the Nats head again residence the place the Pittsburgh Pirates might be ready for them.

After a middling begin to the season that included a sequence win over the Nationals, the Pirates have fallen again to 29-43. That’s nonetheless ok for third within the Nationwide League Central although due to the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds having poor seasons.

The Pirates do have an thrilling younger core although, with increasingly more call-ups arising by the week, and because the Nats noticed earlier this season, they gained’t be a pushover at Nationals Park.

Right here’s the lowdown from Half Road forward of the three-game midweek set…

The schedule

  • Recreation One: Monday, June twenty seventh, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Recreation Two: Tuesday, June twenty eighth, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Recreation Three: Wednesday, June twenty ninth, 1:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Possible Pitchers

  • Recreation One: Erick Fedde (5-5, 4.46 ERA) vs Bryse Wilson (0-4, 8.29 ERA)
  • Recreation Two: Patrick Corbin (3-10, 6.60 ERA) vs José Quintana (1-4, 3.60 ERA)
  • Recreation Three: Paolo Espino (0-1, 2.21 ERA) vs Mitch Keller (2-5, 4.77 ERA)

Who’s scorching?

Paolo Espino: Simply as he did final season, after beginning off as a protracted reliever within the Nationals’ bullpen, Espino is again within the rotation and is impressing in his first few begins of the yr.

In three begins since transferring to the rotation, the veteran right-hander sports activities a 2.57 ERA, permitting simply 4 earned runs in 14 innings, putting out 10 whereas strolling 5 batters. The furthest he’s gone right into a sport up to now is simply 5.1 innings however that’s to be anticipated till he’s totally stretched out.

Espino is ready to begin the sequence finale in opposition to the Pirates this week and seems to have cemented his rotation spot for the speedy future till his efficiency degree drops.

Bligh Madris: For those who knew of Bligh Madris earlier than this season, then give your self a pat on the again. The 2017 Ninth-round choose of the Pirates had a reasonably non-descript minor league profession earlier than this season however burst onto the scene with a .905 OPS in Triple-A to begin 2022, incomes him the decision to the large leagues on June twentieth.

In his first six video games as a significant leaguer, Madris is 9-for-24 with a house run and 4 doubles to his title, driving in six runs within the course of. The one concern with that begin is the absence of any walks whereas putting out 5 instances.

Referred to as up similtaneously the Pirates’ high prospect, Oneil Cruz, Madris doesn’t include anyplace close to the identical hype however is off to a pleasant begin to his massive league profession.

Who’s not?

Maikel Franco: Maikel Franco is again to doing Maikel Franco issues. Catching hearth for a couple of video games earlier than extending slumps on the plate, whereas being a legal responsibility within the discipline and never getting on base a ton.

In his final 12 video games, Franco is slashing simply .163/.196/.233 with just one extra-base hit, a house run in opposition to the Philadelphia Phillies final Sunday, putting out 9 instances and strolling simply two. His .429 OPS in that stretch is simply above Ehire Adiranza amongst Nationals gamers.

Franco was all the time seen as a placeholder for the Nationals, with no actual viable younger choices within the higher minors that the crew considers part of their long-term future

Ke’Bryan Hayes: Typically, Hayes is listed within the Who’s Scorching part of those sequence previews. He’s one of many few shining lights on a nondescript Pirates roster, and an underrated star in MLB.

Nevertheless, Hayes is at the moment slumping tougher than he has coming into the sequence in opposition to the Nationals. In his final 11 video games, Hayes is slashing .178/.196/.356 with a house run, a pair of triples, and a double. In that span, he’s walked as soon as and struck out 13 instances.

Even whereas he’s slumping on the dish, Hayes continues to supply elite protection on the scorching nook. That mentioned, the Pirates might be hoping he can flip his fortunes round quickly.

From the opposing dugout

Try among the high Pirates storylines from our buddies at Bucs Dugout…

Another factor to observe

Throughout a rebuild, one factor that Nationals followers might be on the lookout for is the youthful gamers who emerge with the crew now that they’ll dangle their hat on for when the crew returns to competition.

Some are apparent, corresponding to Juan Soto, Keibert Ruiz, and Josiah Grey. Others are nonetheless rising and the jury remains to be out, together with Luis García, Riley Adams, and Mason Thompson.

Then there are some which might be a bit older however have an opportunity to make their case to be part of the long-term future for the Nationals. Lane Thomas, a 26-year-old, falls into that bracket.

Since coming to Washington within the Jon Lester commerce eventually yr’s commerce deadline, Thomas has slashed .251/.331/.447 with 15 residence runs, 60 runs scored, and 56 RBIs, whereas putting out at a 23.8% clip and strolling at a ten.7% charge.

Thomas has been a reasonably streaky participant for the Nationals, at instances enjoying the position of a spark atop the batting order, and others trying utterly misplaced on the plate.

GM Mike Rizzo talked on his weekly radio spot about how the crew views Thomas and it might come as one thing of a shock to some that they completely see him as a core piece…

“We all the time thought he was a tooled-up participant,” Rizzo informed 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports activities Junkies. “I believe caught behind a few of these nice St. Louis Cardinals’ groups that he was form of forgotten over there, and our scouts did job of figuring out Lane as a man that form of matches our profile.

“He’s all the time been ready to wear down left-handed pitching, so we all know he can try this, he’s making good changes in opposition to right-handed pitchers, he does have pop, he’s bought pace, he’s bought defensive capability in each heart discipline and left discipline, and he’s a well-rounded, versatile participant for us that’s sound essentially and is certainly a part of the core group of men that may transfer ahead and be our subsequent championship-caliber membership.”

Given how far-off from competition the crew seems to be this season, the Nationals usually are not going to be wanting time to determine whether or not Thomas really might be part of the Nationals’ subsequent contending crew. If he lives as much as the hopes that Rizzo and the remainder of the entrance workplace have, then he’s off to a fairly good begin on that entrance.

Sequence Preview Trivia

Final sequence’ trivia query: Which 5 gamers at the moment on the Nationals’ lively roster have both had a plate look or pitched to a batter within the MLB common season at Globe Life Discipline?

Reply: Nelson Cruz, Maikel Franco, César Hernández, Erasmo Ramirez, Steve Cishek

Right here’s our trivia query for this sequence with the Pirates, as we glance again on a participant who performed for each the Nationals and Pirates throughout his lengthy massive league profession.

Earlier than coming to the nation’s capital, Adam LaRoche made a reputation for himself in Pittsburgh with the Pirates. Within the commerce that despatched him from Pittsburgh to the Atlanta Braves, are you able to title the long run Nationals participant that went the opposite strategy to the Pirates?