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Washington Returns From Break to Play Pittsburgh

The nation’s capital plays host to Major League Baseball on Friday when the Pittsburgh Pirates visit the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. The current line has Washington favored at -205, Pittsburgh at +195 and the over/under run total on 8.

Heading into this first game after the All-Star break, Pittsburgh is 46-43 overall and 22-23 on the road. The Pirates are 8-2 over their past 10 games played. Washington is 54-36 overall and 27-15 at home. The Nationals are 6-4 over their past 10 games played.

Washington and Pittsburgh both were picked to play in the postseason during spring training, but only one at this point of the season looks to be a solid bet in achieving that goal. Pittsburgh needs to play much better during the rest of the season if they hope to punch their ticket to the postseason.

Pittsburgh has won 12 of its past 16 games overall prior to the break for the All-Star Game. The Pirates now have 18 of their next 23 games versus opponents with records below .500. The Pirates are 1 ½ games behind in the race for a NL wildcard spot.

Washington holds a lead of six games in the NL East. Leading up to the break, the Nationals won three straight over the second place New York Mets. Washington won 11 of its last 15 prior to the All-Star break.

Pittsburgh will send veteran Francisco Liriano to the mound on Friday. The Pirates southpaw is 5-8 with an ERA of 5.15 on the season. Washington will counter with Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals right-hander is a perfect 12-0 with an ERA of 2.62.

Liriano started July with two strong starts giving up just four runs over 10 innings pitched. His control has hurt him this season with 58 walks in just 92 plus innings.

Strasburg likely would have started for the NL in the All-Star game but skipped the contest to rest. The right-hander has had a few nagging injuries bother him on and off during his undefeated first half of the season.

Washington catcher Wilson Ramos has just 4 hits in 22 at bats over his past six games played.

Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen has 6 hits in 12 at bats including two homers with 6 RBIs over his last three games prior to the break.

Washington closer Jonathan Papelbon gave up a single hit while fanning eight in his past four appearances.

Prediction: Strasburg is too strong for the Pirates bats. Lean on the Nationals in this one.

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