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Pittsburgh Pirates vs Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats close out regular season against Pirates

The Washington Nationals have a date with the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS, but first they have a four-game slate with fellow NL Central foe Pittsburgh Pirates.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Pirates (73-85) vs. Nationals (95-63) Series Info:

Game 1: Thursday, Sept. 28 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Friday, Sept. 29 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 3: Saturday, Sept. 30 at 7:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Game 4: Sunday, Oct. 1 at 3:05 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Pitching Matchups:

Thursday: Ivan Nova (11-14, 4.14 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (5-6, 5.40)

Friday: Gerrit Cole (12-11, 4.23) vs. Stephen Strasburg (14-4, 2.63)

Saturday: Jameson Taillon (8-7, 4.62) vs. Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.55)

Sunday: TBA vs. Gio Gonzalez (15-8, 2.75)

What to watch for:

What’s at stake for the Cy Young candidates?

The Nationals will close out the regular season and send all three of their Cy Young candidates to the hill against the Pirates.

Stephen Strasburg tops the NL in FIP and HR/9, posting career bests in ERA and WHIP while needing just four strikeouts to reach the 200 mark for the second time in his career.

Max Scherzer leads the league in complete games, strikeouts, WHIP, opponents’ batting average and H/9, sitting only eight outs shy of eclipsing 200 innings for the fifth straight season.

Gio Gonzalez rounds out the trio with a career best in ERA and will look to secure his 16th win of the year in the season finale, which would be tied for the second most in his career.

Gearing up for Chicago

This series will be the last chance for a few regulars to get some at-bats in before the Nats play the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS.

Jayson Werth has struggled mightily since his return from injury (.130 BA in 19 games), so he should see ample playing time to help get his bat going.

Another player to keep an eye on is Bryce Harper, who only has two games under his belt since the gruesome leg injury he suffered in August.

The uncertain future of Andrew McCutchen

Despite a down year in 2016, Andrew McCutchen saw his name swirling in trade rumors all winter before the Pirates ultimately decided to hold onto him.

This year, however, McCutchen has rebounded to the tune of an .851 OPS and 28 home runs while the Pirates have continued to meddle in mediocrity.

McCutchen will be a free agent after next season, meaning these very well could be his last games in a Pirates uniform before he becomes the hottest commodity on the trade market this offseason.

Who to watch out for: Josh Bell

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates don’t boast many power hitters, but Josh Bell has put together a strong campaign in Pittsburgh in his age-24 season.

With an .801 OPS and 25 homers, the future appears bright for the switch-hitting first baseman.

It hasn’t been a very uplifting season for Pirates fans, but they can take solace in the fact that Bell is still locked up for five more years.