The Nationals welcomed the Pirates to town last night for what ended up being one of the most dramatic games of the season. After being no-hit through the first four innings while falling behind 5-0, the Nationals rallied in the late innings and were a hit away from tying up the game in the ninth. While the end result was still a loss, a frustrating 51st of the season for the Nats, the offense showed some of the energy that has evaded the lineup all season.
The game could not have started off worse for the Nationals. In the first inning, Dan Haren(4-11) gave up a bullet into the right field seats to Pittsburgh All-Star Andrew McCutchen for an early 2-0 Pittsburgh lead. Two innings later, Haren gave up another two run homer to McCutchen and the Bucs opened up the lead to 5-0. Haren pitched well and his stuff looked crisp, but those two pitches to ‘Cutch cost him the game. In all, Haren went five innings with six strikeouts and five earned runs, raising his season ERA to 5.79.
Pittsburgh right hander Charlie Morton(2-2) was sensational early Monday night. The big right hander was perfect through the first four innings before surrendering a home run to Adam LaRoche to open up the fifth inning. That’s all the Nats would get until the seventh inning, when Morton hit LaRoche on the back foot with a 1-2 curveball and Jayson Werth followed by smoking a line drive into the red porch seats to make it a 5-3 game. Morton went 6.2 innings Friday night, giving up three earned runs while striking out five.
In the eighth inning, Pittsburgh scrapped for an insurance run. After a leadoff hit followed by a walk, pinch hitter Jose Tabata dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over. A shallow fly ball to Bryce Harper initially didn’t bring in the run, but Harper’s defensive effort went for naught when the runner on 3rd scored on a Drew Storen wild pitch. The run was charged to Fernando Abad, who recorded just one out while allowing two baserunners.
In the ninth inning, the Nats game close to something only the Cincinatti Reds have done this year; force Jason Grilli to blow a save. Adam LaRoche led off the inning against the Pirates All Star closer and SI cover athlete by lining a base hit into right field. Jayson Werth followed with a gargantuan home run to right field, his second two run shot of the game and his fourth home run in two games. After a strikeout of Ian Desmond, Denard Span doubled to conclude a nine pitch at bat. Wilson Ramos struck out on a hanging slider, but after the first pitch to pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi, Jason Grilli gestured for the trainer. Grilli was holding his right arm gingerly and appeared to be in a lot of pain. Entering as an injury replacement, Vin Mazarro got ahead of Lombardozzi 1-2 before getting a groundout to second to end the game and continue the Nats four game losing streak. After the game, it was announced that Grilli left the game with forearm tightness.
It will be a battle of rookies on Tuesday night, as Pirates former number one overall pick Gerrit Cole(4-3) will oppose right hander Taylor Jordan(0-2), who has pitched consistently well since joining the Nats rotation. First pitch is at 7:05.