Compared with what they experienced over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Pirates and visiting Washington Nationals could be on more even footing in a four-game series that begins Monday.
Both lower-echelon National League teams did their best to punch above their weight class in their previous series.
Pittsburgh (66-77) lost two of three games against the best team in baseball, the Atlanta Braves. Washington (64-79) lost two of three against the No. 2 team in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Pittsburgh split four games with the Braves earlier this season as well as the first two games of the weekend series, meaning it came down to Sunday’s clash — which ended up being a 5-2 Atlanta win — to decide the season series.
That, to Pirates manager Derek Shelton, was tantalizingly close to getting the better of the top team in the major leagues, and it said a lot about his squad.
“It is frustrating, but even going back to seven games with them, overall … seven games against the best team in baseball, we went toe-to-toe with them,” Shelton said. “I was really proud of our group. We did a lot of things well.”
Washington isn’t Atlanta.
While the Pirates have gone 8-4 over their past 12 games as they try to set the table for next year, the Nationals are 3-10 in their past 13 games after Sunday’s 7-3 loss. They finished their season series with the Dodgers 2-4.
Still, there is optimism within the organization.
“Lot of young guys playing well, doing a good job,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “I love that.
“Get out of here, get back on the road. It’s a quick flight. Go to Pittsburgh and go 1-0 (Monday).”
In their only previous series this year, the Pirates took two of three games from the Nationals at the end of April.
On Monday, Washington left-hander Patrick Corbin (9-13, 5.23 ERA) is scheduled to start, while Pittsburgh has not named a starter for the first three games of the series. Pirates ace Mitch Keller is slated to start Thursday.
That’s been the norm in recent weeks for Pittsburgh, which has been piecing together its plan for its starters outside of Keller and Johan Oviedo, who is not likely to face the Nationals.
Corbin is coming off losses in each of his past two starts, giving up a combined 14 runs and 17 hits in nine innings.
Last Tuesday, he made it through four innings, allowing eight runs and seven hits — three of them homers, making it 30 against him this season — against the New York Mets. It was the first time since his first start of the season that he didn’t go at least five innings, ending his streak at 26 games.
“Overall, everything just seemed a little bit off,” Corbin said. “I felt all right, but it just seemed like any pitch (Tuesday), they hit hard.”
Off, as in up in the strike zone.
“Up. All the balls they hit out were up,” Martinez said. “He’s got to get the ball down. He’s got to pitch down.”
Against the Pirates, Corbin is 5-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 13 career starts. That includes a loss on April 29 in which he yielded three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.
–Field Level Media