Having thoroughly decimated the Rockies' MLB-worst pitching staff over the last two night, the Nationals today try to do it once again. And once again, they'll be facing a struggling left-hander in Josh Outman, whose name sounds a bit ironic given his 8.64 ERA entering play today.
Adam LaRoche is back after taking a day off, but red-hot Tyler Moore remains in the Nationals' lineup, shifting back to left field. Jesus Flores is back behind the plate after getting last night off.
Edwin Jackson takes the mound, looking to keep his ERA under 3.00 and to give himself a winning record for the season and for his career (he's 64-64 at the moment).
As has been the case the last three days, I'll chime in with some thoughts along the way on the Nats Insider live game thread. And since it's a day game, I'll post some instant analysis as soon as it ends as well. Enjoy the matinee...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at COLORADO ROCKIES
Where: Coors Field
Gametime: 3:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 188
Weather: Partly cloudy, 92 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to LF
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Michael Morse
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Tyler Moore
C Jesus Flores
RHP Edwin Jackson
CF Dexter Fowler
2B Marco Scutaro
LF Carlos Gonzalez
1B Todd Helton
3B Chris Nelson
RF Tyler Colvin
C Wil Nieves
SS Jonathan Herrera
LHP Josh Outman
HP Mark Carlson, 1B Angel Hernandez (cc), 2B Chris Conroy, 3B Ed Hickox
Nats (89-64) vs. Pirates (77-76) at PNC Park
With the magic number to clinch a division title still at two, the Nationals will again try to punch their ticket to the postseason Saturday night at PNC Park. Like Friday night, they'll need to defeat the Pirates and hope for a New York Mets loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in order to secure the NL East championship.
The Nats will send Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48 ERA) to the mound for his second start since he returned from the disabled list. He was limited to just three innings in his previous outing, so it will be important to see how far he gets stretched out against the Pirates. After all, the Nats are in desperate need to identify their third starter for the playoffs, and Ross has a good shot of being that guy if he proves he's capable down the stretch.
The lineup will be the same as Friday night's, with Daniel Murphy shut down for the weekend with a left buttocks strain. Stephen Drew will take over at second base.
First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Joe Ross vs. Pirates - Ivan Nova
CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
2B Stephen Drew
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Joe Ross
CLICK HERE FOR LIVE STATS AND SCORES
The Nationals were hoping that Friday night would be the moment they could finally pop champagne in celebration of an NL East title. All they had to do was win and hope for a New York Mets loss.
Neither happened. As a result, the Nats’ magic number remains at two entering Saturday.
Here are a few takeaways from Friday night's game:
Melancon’s first blown save: Entering Friday, Mark Melancon was a perfect 12-for-12 in save opportunities as the Nats’ closer. And as the baseball gods would have it, his first blown save with Washington comes against his former Pittsburgh teammates. Of the four blown saves Melancon’s had all season, one is against the Nats (when he was still with the Pirates), and the other against the Pirates. Baseball is a funny game.
Turner still learning center field: Though Trea Turner has done just about everything in his short time in the big leagues, he’s still a work in progress as a center fielder. That inexperience bit the Nats in a critical moment on Friday night. With Washington clinging to a 5-4 ninth-inning lead with two outs and a man on, the Pirates’ Sean Rodriguez drilled a Melancon fastball to left-center. Turner didn’t appear to get a great jump after contact, and and got to the ball a tad late. He lunged, but it landed over his head, allowing the tying run to score. It's moments like those that make one wonder if Dusty Baker might consider realigning his defense late in games come October.
Zim reaches milestone: With his run-scoring double in the second inning, Zimmerman notched career RBI No. 1500. The accomplishment is one of the bright spots in an otherwise down season for the veteran first baseman. Though he’s struggled for most of 2016, the Nats are hoping he heats up as the playoffs begin. Case in point: he’s got hits in seven of his last nine games.
Ramos heating up? After an early late-August and early-September swoon, it appears Ramos has found his power stroke once again. He now has six extra-base hits in his last eight games. With the offense scuffling a bit of late, the Nats need Ramos to return to his early-season form.
Up next: The Nats will look to wrap up the division Saturday night as they send Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48 ERA) to the hill to oppose Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.19 ERA).