Brimming with confidence, the surging Pirates look to win their sixth straight game and sweep a four-game set from the slumping Washington franchise for the first time in 22 years in Thursday night’s finale.
After plating 38 runs in the first four games of its winning streak, Pittsburgh (19-21) defeated Washington 2-1 on Wednesday thanks to another meltdown from the Nationals’ bullpen.
In the ninth inning of a tie game, the Pirates loaded the bases against Washington closer Joel Hanrahan(notes), who threw a two-out, wild pitch to Adam LaRoche(notes), allowing Freddy Sanchez(notes) to score the winning run.
Pittsburgh, which had dropped 14 of 17 prior to its five-game winning streak, has climbed out of last place in the NL Central and is trying to win six in a row for the first time since May 6-12, 2008. The Pirates are also seeking their first four-game sweep over the Washington (19-21) franchise since June 23-26, 1987, at Montreal.
“It’s unbelievable. You can just feel the electricity in the clubhouse,” said reliever John Grabow(notes), who pitched the eighth inning Wednesday for the victory. “It’s so awesome knowing that when you win, how much it changes the mood. Everybody’s a lot more confident. When you come to the field and you’re expecting a win, it makes all the difference.”
While the Pirates are rolling, the Nationals have matched a season worst seven-game losing streak and dropped 10 of 11.
“I’m tired of talking about losses, period,” outfielder Adam Dunn(notes) said. “You can only say the same thing over and over and over before you get fed up with it, and that’s kind of what’s going on right now.”
Despite being mired in an awful losing stretch, the Nationals had scored five or more runs in 10 straight games for the first time in franchise history. The pitching was chiefly responsible for the skid, yielding at least seven runs in each of their previous six games.
“It doesn’t seem like anything’s going right for us right now,” manager Manny Acta said.
Craig Stammen is set to make his major league debut in the series finale for Washington, which has a major league-worst 5.84 team ERA
Stammen, who went 4-2 with a 1.80 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Syracuse, takes the spot in the rotation of Daniel Cabrera(notes), 0-5 with 5.95 ERA. With Stammen’s promotion, the Nationals have a rotation with four rookies—Stammen, Shairon Martis(notes), Jordan Zimmermann(notes) and Ross Detwiler(notes)—along with Lannan, who’s in his second year. They are supported by a bullpen that has a 1-15 record.
Acting general manager Mike Rizzo said Stammen and Detwiler will stay in the rotation on a start-by-start basis.
On Saturday against Colorado, the right-hander gave up three runs and three hits in two innings before a 96-minute delay. The Pirates went on to beat the Rockies 7-4, improving to 2-6 in Snell’s starts.
In two starts against the Nationals last year, Snell went 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA.