Pirates at Nationals
A return to the leadoff position for the first time since 2013 allowed Bryce Harper the opportunity to leave some of his frustration in his rear-view mirror. Harper aims to let loose again as the Washington Nationals bid to win four straight for the first time since the first four contests of the season when they continue their four-game series versus the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.
"(On Monday) night, I spoke to Harp, and I just came to a conclusion -- why not, really. He's a little frustrated, and hopefully, he gets some more pitches to hit," Washington manager Davey Martinez said of elevating Harper to the leadoff position. The 2015 National League MVP entered the contest mired in a 5-for-35 slump and had gone 12 games without an extra-base hit before launching a three-run homer in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 12-4 romp. Matt Adams went deep twice for the Nationals (14-16), who improved to 3-2 on their 10-game homestand and sent Pittsburgh (17-13) to its second consecutive loss to begin its nine-game road trip. Corey Dickerson also homered for the second straight outing with a two-run shot to give him 12 hits with six RBIs and seven runs scored in his last 10 games heading into a matchup versus Stephen Strasburg, against whom he is 2-for-6 with a pair of doubles in his career.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, AT&T SportsNet-Pittsburgh, MASN (Washington)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates RH Ivan Nova (2-1, 3.32 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Stephen Strasburg (2-3, 3.63)
Nova turned in his fourth straight strong performance since sustaining his lone loss of the season, but was left to settle for his second consecutive no-decision despite scattering six hits over eight scoreless innings versus Detroit on Thursday. The 31-year-old Dominican did not allow a walk for the fourth straight outing, a stretch in which he owns a 2-0 mark after permitting just seven runs on 24 hits in 27 2/3 innings. Matt Wieters (13-for-39, four homers) has taken Nova to task in his career, but the right-hander has split a pair of decisions versus Washington despite allowing the club to bat .339 against him.
Strasburg sustained his second straight loss on Friday after allowing five runs in 6 1/3 innings of a 5-4 setback against Arizona. The 29-year-old hasn't done himself any favors with the long ball, as he has been taken deep in five of his six outings this season and has surrendered seven homers total in 39 2/3 innings. Starling Marte (5-for-15, homer) has found success against Strasburg, although the same cannot be said of David Freese (0-for-8, three strikeouts), Adam Frazier (0-for-6) and Sean Rodriguez (0-for-5, four strikeouts).
1. Pittsburgh RF Gregory Polanco is mired in a 1-for-15 stretch in his last four games after collecting seven hits in his previous six contests.
2. Washington SS Trea Turner is 12-for-24 with six RBIs and five runs scored in his last six games.
3. Pirates C Francisco Cervelli is 6-for-12 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored during his four-game hitting streak.