Red-hot Nationals turn attention to Pirates




The Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates might have to temper or at least channel some emotion as they open a four-game series Monday in Pittsburgh.

Both clubs are coming off some excitement.

Washington, which is 9-3 in its past 12 games and chasing a National League wild-card spot, has had a few recent wild affairs.

Wednesday, the Nationals beat Cincinnati 17-7.

Saturday, the Nationals came back from deficits of 5-0, 8-5, 12-11 and 13-12 before eventually falling to the Milwaukee Brewers 15-14 in 14 innings.

Sunday, Washington tied a team record by socking eight homers by six different players in a 16-8 win over the Brewers.

"The long game (Saturday), coming back and jumping on top of (the Brewers) early, that shows you what kind of team this really is," Washington manager Dave Martinez said. "They're relentless. They come out, they're ready to play."

The Pirates on Sunday played in the MLB Little League Classic and had an up-and-down day. After celebrating the Little League World Series and interacting with young players in Williamsport, Pa., they were manhandled by the Chicago Cubs 7-1.

What lingered was the spirit of the day.

"You come here and you see these kids that have gotten here -- to understand how good they are to get here, it's pretty amazing," Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman said.

Pittsburgh, in contrast to the youth teams in the championship tournament, has fallen out of playoff contention.

In the series opener Monday, Washington right-hander Joe Ross (3-3, 5.91 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander Trevor Williams (5-5, 5.25).

In his past three starts, Ross is 3-0 with a 0.50 ERA and 11 strikeouts. He has been stepping in for injured ace Max Scherzer.

Tuesday, he gave up one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings in a 3-1 win at Cincinnati. That one run he gave up, in the seventh, ended a personal scoreless streak of 17 1/3 innings.

"You see him kind of getting that swagger, that confidence on the mound," Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier told the Nationals' official website. "He's doing what he's supposed to do, which is really cool when somebody kind of gets that."

Ross, in his first full season coming off Tommy John surgery, had a 9.85 ERA at the end of July after moving around from starter to reliever, the major leagues to Triple-A Fresno.

"I guess it's just more timing than anything," Ross said of his turnaround, according to the team website. "I wouldn't say I ever really doubt myself, but with Max being out -- and hopefully he'll come back soon; I'm not sure exactly what he's planned for -- but I mean (having good outings has) been good for us. We're in a tight race."

Scherzer in on track to return and start the series finale Thursday.

Ross is 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA in three career starts against Pittsburgh.

Williams, meanwhile, has been inconsistent. He is 2-3 in his past five starts.

Tuesday against the Angels, he picked up a win despite giving up five runs, seven hits and five walks in five innings as Pittsburgh scored a 10-7 comeback win.

Williams is 1-1 with a 3.06 ERA in four career appearances, three of them starts, against the Nationals.

--Field Level Media

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