Major League Baseball
Pirates-Nationals preview
Major League Baseball

Pirates-Nationals preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 12:46 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer has had some memorable games at Nationals Park since he joined Washington before the 2015 season.

And the veteran right-hander has pitched very well in day games, and he had a memorable outing last season against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

All of those factors will be in play Sunday afternoon when Scherzer, who pitched one inning for the National League on Tuesday in the All-Star Game, will get the start for the Nationals in his first appearance of the second half.

It was June 20, 2015 -- a Saturday afternoon -- that Scherzer tossed a no-hitter against the Pirates at Nationals Park. He is 3-2 in seven career starts against Pittsburgh.


He will face the Pirates at home for the first time since his first no-hitter when he opposes Pittsburgh rookie right-hander Chad Kuhl on Sunday.

"Scherzer was the least rested, so we decided to give him some extra days," Washington manager Dusty Baker said after Stephen Strasburg started Friday and Tanner Roark went Saturday.

Several of the top Pittsburgh hitters have struggled against Scherzer. Josh Harrison is 0-for-12, Matt Joyce is 0-for-10 and Andrew McCutchen is hitting .083 against the veteran. McCutchen had two of the team's five hits in a 6-0 loss Saturday as Roark went eight scoreless innings.

Kuhl (1-0, 6.08), a product of the University of Delaware, will be making his fourth career start and will face the Nationals for the first time.

"I think it all comes down to executing pitches," Kuhl told The Sports Xchange on Saturday. "Any hitter in this league can hit a fastball down the middle. It all comes down to pitch execution. If I am making my pitches, I feel I can be successful."

The 23-year-old right-hander from Bear, Del., said he expects at least 20 or 30 family and friends to be at the game Sunday. His home is less than two hours from Nationals Park.

"I have to be able to keep the fastball down in the zone and throw the slider off that," he said.

Kuhl said he has benefited from throwing to veteran catchers Eric Fryer and Erik Kratz.

"They have a lot of experience. You build off that trust," Kuhl said.

He was drafted in the ninth round in 2013 out of Delaware by the Pirates.

"It is obviously a dream come true for me and my family," Kuhl said. "I had a shorter route that most. I got here in three years. It is a rewarding feeling to be here. It has been an awesome experience."

"He has a big league fastball," said Fryer, claimed off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals on July 3. "He is able to control his change; his slider is a good one. All of the young pitchers (with the Pirates) seem to be level-headed and cool and able to control their emotions. That is how you can be successful."

In Kuhl's last start, he had a no-decision against the Chicago Cubs on July 10 as he worked 2 1/3 innings and gave up seven hits and four earned runs. He had trouble with his sinker that day.

"It wasn't sinking like we wanted it to," said Fryer, and he had to use other secondary pitches.

The first-place Nationals will be a tough test. They are 20 games above .500 for the first time since 2014.

"That was our goal, to be 20 games over," Baker said. "The guys have responded to my challenge."

Baker said he wanted his team to play strong before and after the All-Star break.

He said there are times a team can catch an opponent who is on "vacation mode" around the break. The Pirates will try to break out of that mode and salvage the finale Sunday, but it might be tough with a veteran such as Scherzer going against rookie Kuhl.


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