The Pirates look to finish off their first three-game sweep of the Nationals in over eight years as the teams meet Sunday at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh (35-45) beat Washington 7-2 on Saturday for its fourth win in five games. The Pirates are trying tom complete their first sweep of the Nationals franchise since May 14-16, 1999, before it had moved from Montreal to Washington.
Pittsburgh has already won four of five against Washington (32-48) this season, guaranteeing the Pirates of winning the season series for the first time since 2000.
Washington ranks last in the majors with 298 runs, while Pittsburgh is fifth-worst with 330. However, the Pirates have outscored the Nationals 10-4 in this series, and took control Saturday with a six-run second inning.
“That’s what we’ve been missing, getting big hits like that,” said Pittsburgh first baseman Adam LaRoche, who homered and drove in three runs. “We got guys on, drew walks and got big hits, and you see what it does. That’s a hard blow to take like that, a six-run inning.”
The Nationals, meanwhile, have managed only seven runs during their five-game losing streak. First-year manager Manny Acta held a postgame meeting following their 11th loss in 14 games.
“It’s time to nip some little things in the bud, and I think he did,” Washington outfielder Ryan Church said. “Manny doesn’t have to go about yelling and screaming and throwing things. He has a certain way he does it, and I believe it’s the right way, the professional way.”
“I know some guys are struggling, but I don’t think they’re going to wind up the season where they are now,” Acta said. “But we’ve got to get right to it because games are just going by.”
The Nationals—trying to avoid their second consecutive series sweep— could have a tough time getting their offense going against Paul Maholm (4-10, 4.80 ERA), who is coming off one of his best outings of the season. He allowed two runs in 7 2-3 innings in Tuesday’s 3-2 win in Florida to help the Pirates shake a five-game losing streak.
Maholm has lasted at least seven innings in each of his last three starts, going 2-1 over that span after dropping five straight decisions.
“He pitched some good games where he was an unfortunate loser, but from a command standpoint this is what he’s capable of,” Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy said.
Maholm’s only previous start against the Nationals came on July 16, when he allowed three runs in 6 1-3 innings of a Pirates’ 11-inning, 8-4 loss.
Washington will counter with Mike Bacsik (1-5, 5.08), who lost his fifth straight decision on Tuesday, allowing five runs - all on three homers - in six innings of a 6-2 defeat in Atlanta. He has not won since May 24 in Cincinnati, and the Nationals have lost in each of his last six starts.
Bacsik made his first career start against the Pirates on June 5, when he battled a stomach ache and was pounded for six runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 7-6 home loss.