For once I have nothing bad to say about Bud Selig's Blackout Zone: the Pirates and Nationals play on FOX today at 4:15 and on 364 days a year I find it annoying to live in what's been insanely classified as Nationals Territory here in North Carolina, but today that means that I'll get to see the Pirate game. The Pirates kicked off this short homestand in strong fashion last night, riding a great start from AJ Burnett and homers from Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer to a 3-1 win.
Today, Jeff Locke takes his 13-inning shutout/two-strong start streak to the mound against Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg's numbers aren't quite Strasburgian thus far this year (he's 1-4 with a 3.13 ERA), but even in his last five (0-4, 3.86 ERA) starts he's got 33 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings, which makes him a serious danger to the Pirates. He's walked quite a few hitters in those five starts, though (12 walks which is a rate of 3.9/9 innings) and he's given up three homers in that span, too. Drawing walks and homering are two things that the Pirate offense are pretty decent at, and I think that's probably the key to success against Strasburg today.
First pitch is at 4:05. The Pirates need one win to take this series from the Nats, after which the Pirates get a breather from their previously brutal schedule. Take this series, then start to do some real damage against the Mariners and Mets and Cubs and Astros of the world. That's the plan. Believe it, Pittsburgh.
A bit late to the chorus, but how god-awful were the FOX broadcasters? It only took Howard David a couple of innings to realize that it was Jones, not Gaby Sanchez, playing first, and F.P. Santangelo (who is also the regular Nats analyst, not that you could tell from the broadcast) can barely speak in multiple syllables. They were even more brutal than the game itself, which is no small feat.