We Pittsburgh Pirate fans have been fortunate enough to watch our favorite team play some really excellent stretches of baseball over the last two-plus seasons. When we all sat around in May of 2013 wondering if the Pirates’ hot start was real, that team ripped off a 33-13 stretch which included a 16-4 run at the beginning and a nine-game winning streak at the end. That run, for all intents and purposes, made them a real playoff team before the All-Star Break. When last year’s Pirates bottomed out on their seven-game losing streak inAugust, they responded by winning 17 of their next 21 games to secure a wild card spot and very nearly sneak away with the NL Central title. This current stretch is as good as either of those two; the Pirates were being threatened with relegation to the wild card race by their own uneven performance and a red hot Cardinal team and they’ve responded with 21 wins in 25 games (so far) with the club alternating between scoring runs in reams and shutout streaks matching records in bygone eras of baseball. We all thought that this Pirate team was going to be a joy to watch this spring, and they’ve proved that in this last month.
This weekend, they roll into the nation’s capital for a three-game set against one of the pre-season NL favorites, the Washington Nationals. The Nats have sputtered in fits and starts thus far much like the pre-May-21st Pirates, though they have no Cardinals to deal with in the National League East. They’re not in the best shape right now, as Stephen Strasburg is in the minors on a rehab assignment and Bryce Harper is out for at least tonight with a hamstring strain that he suffered last night. In June, the Nats are 6-11.
The standings don’t reflect anything other than wins and losses, though, and so the best thing that the Pirates can do this weekend is turn what looked like a challenging weekend when the schedule was released into an extension of their current hot streak. AJ Burnett starts tonight, coming off of one of his better starts in 2015 (the nine shutout innings against the Phillies that resulted in a no decision). He’ll face Joe Ross in his third big league start. Ross was on a few Top 100 lists a couple years back and his first two big starts have been excellent (13 innings, 12 strikeouts, one walk, 13 hits, no homers, 3.86 ERA). This Pirate lineup is nothing like the Brewer lineup he steamrolled in his last outing. The Pirates have already given one heralded rookie pitcher a rude lesson in baseball this week, tonight they’ll try to make it two.
First pitch is at 7:05.
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