The struggling Washington Nationals may have to start a three-game home series against the red-hot Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday without slugger Bryce Harper. The 22-year-old, who boasts 22 homers and 53 RBIs, suffered what was deemed a mild hamstring strain before leaving in the sixth inning of Thursday’s 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay and will be re-evaluated Friday.
The Nationals have dropped 14 of their last 20 games and managed just three runs in their last two games after scoring 16 at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Injury-plagued Washington must find a way to raise its level of play against the Pirates, who have won a season-high eight straight contests after a 3-2 victory against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. Pittsburgh has allowed only six earned runs during its streak and owns a major league-best 1.75 ERA in June. Josh Harrison has hit safely in eight straight contests (16-for-35) and Andrew McCutchen is 9-for-23 during a six-game run for the Pirates.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), MASN2 and WUSA 9 (Washington)
LINE HISTORY: Lines have yet to be posted with the status of Bryce Harper unconfirmed.
INJURY REPORT: Pirates – 2B Neil Walker (Ques-Virus) Nationals – LF Bryce Harper (Doub-Hamstring)
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “The home team has dominated this series, winning seven of the past eight meetings. However, the Pirates enter in excellent current form and they have one of the most underrated pitchers this season on the mound. A.J. Burnett has quietly put together a fantastic 1.89 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in his 13 starts. He pitched nine scoreless innings last Sunday and he has pitched at least 7 innings or more in six of his past eight outings.” – Covers Expert Steve Merril
HOT FAN WAR:
PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates RH A.J. Burnett (6-2, 1.89 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Joe Ross (1-1, 3.46)
Burnett has been quite unlucky in his last two starts, allowing one run and 10 hits combined over 16 innings without gaining a victory, after winning the previous six. The 38-year-old Arkansas native, who owns 161 career wins, is 4-0 with a 2.51 ERA in seven road starts in 2015. Anthony Rendon is 7-for-16 with three homers and nine RBIs against Burnett, who is 12-5 in 23 appearances (22 starts) with a 3.19 ERA versus the Nationals.
Ross has yielded five runs and 13 hits in his first 13 innings in the big leagues, splitting a pair of starts. The 22-year-old California native struck out eight and threw 108 pitches while permitting two runs over eight frames to beat Milwaukee last Saturday and has walked one batter overall. Ross, who was drafted in 2011 by San Diego in the first round, was 2-2 in nine starts with Double-A Harrisburg before being recalled.
*Pirates are 6-0 in their last 6 vs. a team with a winning record.
*Nationals are 0-6 in their last 6 home games vs. a right-handed starter.
*Under is 10-1 in Pirates last 11 overall.
*Over is 5-0 in Nationals last 5 games following a loss.