Hoping to avoid their longest losing streak of the season, the Nationals sent Stephen Strasburg (3-4) to the mound against the Pirates young ace Gerrit Cole. Offensive ineptitude remained a dominant theme for the Nats, however, as they once again struggled to score, losing 3-2, their fourth loss in a row and their third to the Bucs.
After Friday, the Nats had lost three in a row for the third time this season and hoped to avoid their fourth, which would have dropped them below .500 as a team for the first time since August 22, 2013. The Nats desperately needed Strasburg to dominate like he is capable, but the righty starter could only deliver another quality outing. For most of the season, Strasburg has been good but not great, and on Saturday he tossed his seventh quality start in a row, finishing this game with seven innings pitched and allowing three earned runs on seven hits with seven strike outs.
The Nats led off the scoring in the fourth when Ian Desmond hit his ninth home run of the season. The Pirates Neil Walker answered in the bottom half of the inning with his tenth home run on the year. The Nats quickly answered in the fifth when Wilson Ramos blooped a single over Walker’s glove, making the score 2-1.
The Pirates took the lead for good in the seventh, plating two on a tiring Strasburg. With runners on second and third with one out when Jose Tabata tied the score with a sacrifice fly to center. After an intentional walk to Travis Snider, Josh Harrison singled in the go ahead run, giving the Pirates the 3-2 lead.
Though relieved by Jared Hughes (3-1) at the top of the seventh, Cole pitched well for the Pirates. He finished his night after six innings of work, allowing two earned runs on five hits while striking out seven.
Mark Melancon closed out the ninth for his ninth save.
Desmond has now recorded a hit in four straight games and 11 of his last 13. In that span, he has hit five home runs with 10 RBIs. He has hit home runs in two of the three games in this series. Filling in for Adam LaRoche, who is expected to return from the disabled list on Sunday, Greg Dobbs went 2-for-4.