May 17, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (20) sits on the bench against the New York Mets during the sixth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Nats Sunk By Pirates, 3-1

The Nationals lost the first game of the four game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-1 at PNC Park.

The Nationals, as has been their bad habit for the last couple of years, allowed mediocre Pirates pitcher Edinson Volquez to look like an ace. Volquez pitched six innings, only giving up one run on an Ian Desmond home run in the top of the fourth. The Nats had several opportunities to break the game open, but failed to plate any runners they got into scoring position.

Blake Treinen made his second major league start, and pitched well. He gave up two runs in five and two thirds innings of work. Treinen continues to show promise, and has demonstrated that he may be able to crack the majors permanently as a starter.

The Nats got something going in the top of the second thanks to an error by Pedro Alvarez. Wilson Ramos singled to start the inning. After Ian Desmond struck out, Tyler Moore grounded the ball to third, and reached on the error which should have been a double play. Danny Espinosa flew out, and Nate McLouth ended the inning by grounding the ball up the first base line. McLouth did not leave the batters box, believing the ball was foul. The ball was fair all the way and even though he probably would have been out anyway, that lack of hustle and fundamental baseball (run even if you think it’s foul on a ball hit that close to the line) was not impressive. For a bench player getting a start, it was inexcusable.

In the top of the third the Nationals started out the inning getting two baserunners with no outs thanks to walks to Treinen and Denard Span on two great at bats. The heart of the order failed to deliver. Anthony Rendon grounded the ball toward the shortstop, so the Pirates were able to get Treinen at third. Jayson Werth flew out to center, which advanced Span to third. Ramos grounded out to end the inning and the Nationals scoring threat.

The Pirates broke through against the Nats in the bottom of the third. Treinen got two outs, and then faced the pitcher Volquez, whom he walked. Josh Harrison singled, then Treinen walked Neil Walker. With the bases loaded, Andrew McCutchen stepped into the box. This could have been disastrous. Steve McCatty went out to the mound for a chat with Treinen. Then Treinen hit McCutchen with the first pitch, leading to the first Pirate run. Treinen then got Pedro Alvarez to fly out to end the inning.

Desmond answered the Pirates run with his lead off home run in the top of the fourth, which tied the score 1-1. The Pirates scored the go ahead run in the bottom of the fifth on heads up base running by Harrison. Harrison started the inning by drawing a walk. Walker then flew out, but Harrison tagged up and went to second, and came home on a single by McCutchen.

Aaron Barrett pitched one and a third scoreless innings for the Nationals to keep the score 2-1 in favor of the Pirates into the eighth inning. The Nats had their chances in the top of the eighth. Tony Watson was pitching for the Pirates and got the first two outs easily. He then walked Werth, allowed a single to Ramos and walked Desmond. Scott Hairston was sent up to pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot with the bases loaded. He flew out to end the inning.

The Pirates had their chances in the bottom of the eighth against Ross Detwiler and capitalized. With one out, Chris Stewart doubled and Harrison brought him home with a single to right, making the score 3-1.

The ninth inning was interesting, as the Nationals tend to make them when the team is behind. Closer Mark Melancon walked Espinosa to start the inning. McLouth hit into a fielder’s choice, with Espinosa out a second and McLouth making it to first. Pinch hitter Greg Dobbs struck out. Span drew a walk. Two speedy runners were on and Rendon came up.

The Pirates defensive duo of Josh Harrison playing right field and Andrew McCutchen playing center robbed the Nats of several hits during the game. Harrison took a hit away from Ramos in the top of the sixth, and McCutchen made a game saving catch on a well hit ball by Anthony Rendon in the top of the ninth that would have scored one run, and possibly two. Instead, the game was over and the Nats had no miracle ninth inning comeback.

Next Game: The Nationals and Pirates do it again Friday night at PNC Park with a scheduled start time of 7:05 PM EST. Jordan Zimmermann (3-1, 3.70 ERA) is the starter for the Nationals, while the Pirates send Charlie Morton (0-6, 3.45 ERA) to the hill.

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