Major League Baseball
Preview
Washington at Pittsburgh
When: 1:35 PM ET, Sunday, September 25, 2016
Where: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Washington Nationals can afford to give their stars a much-needed breather with a third division title in five years safely under wraps. Fresh off seeing his team pop the top off several bottles of champagne, manager Dusty Baker likely will get creative with his lineup on Sunday afternoon as the Nationals play the rubber match of their three-game series with the host Pittsburgh Pirates.

Washington had dropped five of six before posting a 6-1 victory over Pittsburgh and having its National League East title secured after the New York Mets' spirited rally fell short against Philadelphia approximately 20 minutes later. While the Nationals officially punched their ticket to the postseason, the Pirates' bid for their fourth straight playoff appearance likely is on life support as they fell four games out of the second wild-card spot with eight to play. Former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen has improved his batting average from .246 to .258 during his 12-game hitting streak and is 28-for-90 in September. On the flipside, Matt Joyce is 0-for-18 in his last nine games and 2-for-31 this month.

TV: 1:35 p.m. ET, MASN (Washington), ROOT (Pittsburgh)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals RH A.J. Cole (1-2, 4.68 ERA) vs. Pirates RH Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 4.11)

Baker waited until after Saturday's tilt to announce his starter for the series finale, selecting Cole with the hope the 24-year-old can rebound from the shortest outing of his young career. Cole allowed two runs and four hits in four innings at Miami on Monday. The right-hander has failed to go beyond five frames in each of his last three starts and has surrendered seven homers in six appearances (32 2/3 innings).

With Steven Beault out of the rotation, top prospect Glasnow will make his third major-league start and first since July 23 after recording a pair of scoreless stints in relief. The 23-year-old handcuffed Cincinnati last weekend by recording three outs on Sept. 16 before coming on for Ivan Nova and scattering two hits and striking out four in three innings two days later. Glasnow tossed 55 pitches in the latter outing without issue, prompting manager Clint Hurdle to give him another start.

WALK-OFFS

1. Pittsburgh SS Sean Rodriguez has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 contests.

2. Washington C Wilson Ramos is 10-for-25 during his six-game hitting streak.

3. Pirates OF Adam Frazier is 1-for-18 in his last four games after collecting a three-hit performance in two of his previous three contests.

PREDICTION: Pirates 7, Nationals 2
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away East Central West IL
Washington 90-64 W1 46-28 44-36 49-24 16-16 13-16 12-8
Pittsburgh 77-77 L1 37-39 40-38 14-18 32-37 22-11 9-11
Last Meeting
Washington Pittsburgh
Date Away Home Avg HR OPS Avg HR OPS
9/24/16 WAS 6 PIT 1 .324 0 .723 .229 1 .679
Player Stats
Season Series
Batting Player Avg Hits OPS
Washington S. Drew .368 7 .979
Pittsburgh S. Marte .286 4 .946
Offense Player HR Runs RBI
Washington D. Espinosa 1 4 3
Pittsburgh S. Marte 1 2 2
Pitching ERA Avg K
Washington 1.62 .246 52
Pittsburgh 3.17 .209 54
Season
Batting Player Avg Hits OPS
Washington D. Murphy .347 184 .987
Pittsburgh S. Marte .311 152 .819
Offense Player HR Runs RBI
Washington D. Murphy 25 88 104
Pittsburgh A. McCutchen 24 80 75
Pitching ERA Avg K
Washington 3.43 .256 1406
Pittsburgh 4.15 .258 1170