After taking a drastic step to jumpstart the offense by firing hitting coach Rick Eckstein today, the Nationals looked like a team without a hitting coach for the game’s first four innings. They failed to get a hit or hit a ball out of the infield until the fifth inning, but the offense came alive from there. Dan Haren dug them a sizable hole, trailing 5-0 by the time they got a hit, but the Nats made it interesting. Adam LaRoche led the bottom of the fifth off with a solo home run, cutting the lead to four. From the bottom of the fifth on, the Nats outhit the Pirates 8-3 and outscored them 5-1, but the one run Pittsburgh scored on a wild pitch in the eighth would make all the difference. Despite the fourth consecutive loss, the Nats showed signs of progress. The five runs were the same number they scored in the entire series against the Dodgers, and the Nats were able to scratch up an excellent Pirates bullpen. With our newfound tempered expectations, this result isn’t so bad. Tomorrow, the Nats will seek to end the quietest four-game losing streak of the season.
Most Important Nationals Hit: Denard Span‘s double (+16.6%)
In the ninth, the Nats made this game pretty exciting. They trailed by three entering the frame, but Adam LaRoche walked and Jayson Werth hit his second home run of the game to cut the lead to just one against All-Star closer Jason Grilli. Ian Desmond struck out, but Span doubled to put the tying run in scoring position with one out. Wilson Ramos struck out, and Grilli was injured during his at-bat against Steve Lombardozzi, but Grilli’s replacement retired him to the game.
Most Important Nationals Pitch: Andrew McCutchen‘s first two-run home run (-18.1%)
Despite his recent renaissance, Dan Haren struggled with the longball again today. With one runner on and one out in the first, McCutchen took him deep to right center and put the Pirates up 2-0 very early. In the third, he did it again with two outs. The second was nearly identical, going to dead center and scoring another pair of runs to make the lead 4-0. Haren had looked good, and those two home runs were the only hits he allowed to that point, but he threw McCutchen some unwise pitches.
Champ of the Game: This was the duel of the multi-homer players. Werth (+18.2%) and McCutchen (32.3%) both had two hits, both of which were two-run homers. McCutchen hit his in the first and third, but Werth’s came in the seventh and ninth. Werth was 2-4 overall, while McCutchen was 2-5.
Chump of the Game: Haren (-28.8%) reverted back to his old self in losing his 11th straight start. He gave up just five hits in five innings, but two were home runs and he yielded a walk to result in five earned runs. He reclaimed the major league lead with 21 home runs surrendered. Grilli (-10.0%) gave up two runs on two hits and a walk while recording just two outs and left the game with right forearm tightness.