WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 04: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on May 4, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Can the Pirates' hitters keep up with fearsome Nats pitchers like Stephen Strasburg?
These aren't the weak Washington Nationals the National League is used to seeing. Not only are young superstars Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg with the team (the Pirates will face Strasburg on Thursday), but the Nationals staff leads the majors in ERA and is tied for fourth in strikeouts, with 231. The Nats also have allowed the seventh-fewest walks, with 81.
Leading the charge on offense for the Nationals is ... Adam LaRoche? In early May? That's right -- the former Pirate and perennial slow starter is batting .311/.392/.511 in the early going. (Another former Pirate, Xavier Nady, hasn't been so successful, batting just .119 so far.)
The fact is, though, it isn't the Nats offense the Pirates will have to worry about. It's the pitching. The Pirates' offense has been the worst in baseball so far. Who knows what might happen in a short series, but expect plenty of swings and misses.