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Washington Nationals vs Pittsburgh Pirates Series Preview: Nats hit the road to face struggling Pirates

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The Washington Nationals embark on an 18-game stretch against teams below .500, beginning with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals (24-13) vs. Pirates (16-22) Series Info:

Game 1: Tuesday, May 16 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Wednesday, May 17 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Game 3: Thursday, May 18 at 12:35 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Pitching Matchups:

Tuesday: Stephen Strasburg (3-1, 3.28 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (1-3, 5.81)

Wednesday: TBA (Jacob Turner?) vs. Gerrit Cole (1-4, 3.06)

Thursday: Tanner Roark (3-1, 3.88) vs. Tyler Glasnow (1-3, 7.98)

What to watch for:

Nats find a reprieve in schedule

The Washington Nationals have struggled as of late, dropping four of their last seven, but they can take solace in the fact that they won’t face another team above .500 until seeing the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 5.

Technically this stretch began in Philadelphia, but with how tough the Phillies have played them this season the Nats probably aren’t too disappointed with not seeing them for a while either.

Kicking things off are the Pittsburgh Pirates, who find themselves in the basement of the NL Central after dropping six straight last week.

Trea Turner looking for a spark

With a .160/.204/.300 slash line in the month of May, Trea Turner has struggled to regain his stroke after that torrid series at Coors Field in late April.

He has been hitting the ball fairly hard as of late, finding himself victim to some tough-luck outs.

Turner’s BABIP on the year is .304, which is right around league average, but faster players typically have higher marks so look for Turner’s misfortunes to eventually give way.

Trade rumors surround Pirates’ roster

With Pittsburgh drowning in mediocrity, some of their most prominent pieces have been at the forefront of the early trade rumors.

Andrew McCutchen, whom the Nats were reportedly in negotiations for in the offseason, remains affordable despite his poor production since the start of last year.

A player the Nats could be very interested in keeping an eye on is Tony Watson, the Pirates’ former setup man who has converted 23-of-29 save opportunities since taking over for Mark Melancon after last year’s trade deadline.

Surprisingly, however, it is rotation centerpiece Gerrit Cole who finds himself at the center of it all — he remains under contract through 2019 and owns an ERA+ of 132 since the start of 2015.

Who to watch out for: Josh Harrison

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Easily the best hitter in this light-hitting lineup, Josh Harrison owns a .743 career OPS in 21 games against the Nats.

With David Freese fresh of the disabled list, Pittsburgh gets some power back and hopes it can couple that with Harrison’s ability to get on base to pick up its offense.

Overall, the Pirates are tied for the third worst team OPS in baseball at .670 and will need more than a few hitters to step up if they’re going to hope to keep pace with the Nats’ bats.