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Nationals Looking to Take Back NL East Lead

The National League East has three teams within 2 ½ games of one another at the top of the division. Currently the New York Mets are a half game ahead of the second place Washington Nationals and 2 ½ games in front of the third place Atlanta Braves.

On Saturday, the Nationals will host the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates on the season are 39-28 overall and 18-17 on the road. The Nationals are 35-33 overall and 17-14 at home. The current line has Washington favored at -130, Pittsburgh on +120 and the run total at 6.5.

Even without slugger Bryce Harper, the Nationals showed signs of coming out of their slump at home, while putting to an end their longest skid in over two years.

They are not likely going to need that much scoring, as they will have Max Scherzer pitching for them.

As right-hander Scherzer tries to build on his historic outing, Washington will look to win two straight for just the second time in nearly one month against the Pirates.

Washington batted just .205 while scoring eight runs in a four-game losing streak.

Washington however, was able to end that streak in a 4-1 win on Friday over the Pirates. Denard Span had two hits as did four of his teammates, as the Nationals racked Pittsburgh pitching for 14 hits.

The Nationals might be without Harper again who strained a hamstring on Thursday. The right fielder might be put on the DL if he is too slow to recover.

With Scherzer on the mound, the Nationals will likely not need too much offense. The veteran right-hander is 6-5 with an ERA of 1.93. He as limited opponents to just one run or less in 9 of his 13 starts this season.

In his last outing, Scherzer allowed one hit and struck out 16 his career high, in a 4-0 win over Milwaukee. He gave up a broken bat single during the seventh and a walk during the eighth. In his career, Scherzer is 3-2 with an ERA of 3.00 versus Pittsburgh.

Andrew McCutchen is 4 for 14 versus Scherzer, but Pedro Alvarez, Josh Harrison and Francisco Cervelli are 1 for 22 combined versus Scherzer with 10 Ks.

The Pirates loss on Friday snapped their winning streak of eight games.

Pittsburgh will have Francisco Liriano on the mound Saturday. Liriano is 4-5 with an ERA of 2.94 this season and has pitched remarkably well of late. He gave up 2 hits but fanned 12 in eight innings Monday to defeat the White Sox 11-0.

In his past five starts, Liriano is 3-1 with an ERA of 1.29.

This game could be 1-0 or 2-1 or something similar. I like Washington at home with Scherzer on the mound 2-0.

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