Thanks to a surging offense, the Pittsburgh Pirates are playing some of their best baseball of the season. The Washington Nationals are playing their worst in spite of consistently solid performances at the plate.
The Pirates look to notch their season-high fourth straight win and send the Nationals to their sixth consecutive defeat as the clubs continue a four-game series Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.
Pittsburgh (17-21) has won five of seven, including a season high-tying three straight, in large part because of success at the plate. The Pirates have recorded at least 11 hits in seven of their last eight games, batting .298 with runners in scoring position and .319 overall in that stretch.
Pittsburgh had a season-high run total in an 11-4 win over Colorado on Sunday, then recorded a new season best in a 12-7 victory in Monday night’s series opener against Washington (11-26). Jack Wilson(notes) was 4 for 4 with two RBIs and three runs scored, and nine Pirates players scored at least one run.
“We’re swinging the bats well,” manager John Russell said.
Pittsburgh was able to take advantage of Washington’s defense and bullpen, both of which have been bullied all season. The Nationals, who entered the game with five more errors than any other team in the majors, committed four more Monday to up their total to 41.
Washington’s bullpen didn’t help matters as five relievers combined to give up nine runs over four innings.
The Nationals have lost eight of nine despite scoring at least five runs in each game during the slump while batting .305. Their relief corps has a 10.50 ERA in that span.
“It was just sad to see the way things are going with our bullpen. I’ve been in the game for a while, and I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said manager Manny Acta, whose bullpen is last in the majors with a 6.68 ERA. “We have to change it up because it’s not working. We went to young guys, veteran guys, and veterans or young, they’re not getting it done.”
As frustrated as they are, the Nationals have to feel a little more confident with Shairon Martis(notes) (5-0, 4.10 ERA) taking the mound Tuesday. The rookie right-hander has started nearly half of the team’s wins in 2009, becoming the franchise’s first pitcher to start 5-0 since Pedro Martinez(notes) and Jeff Juden in 1997. Martinez won his first eight starts that year en route to the first of his three Cy Young Awards.
Martis struggled with his location at times in his last outing Wednesday, matching a season high with four walks. But he still managed to limit San Francisco to one run and two hits over seven innings of a 6-3 road victory.
“I think he did a very nice job for us, despite not having his command,” Acta told the team’s official Web site regarding Martis, who’s won three straight starts. “He was able to make pitches when he had to.”
Martis, who made his major league debut in September, has never faced Pittsburgh.
Jeff Karstens(notes) (1-2, 5.06) will start for the Pirates, who are 1-5 in the right-hander’s first six starts in part because they’ve failed to provide him more than three runs of support in any of those games. That streak continued with a 5-1 loss to St. Louis on Thursday in which Karstens gave up three runs in six innings.
Karstens has never faced the Nationals.