All season long, the Washington Nationals have been known for being a home run hitting team (71 home runs). Tonight, they snapped their two game losing streak with great pitching from Joe Ross (2-1, 2.66) and with every hitter in the Nats starting lineup picking up at least one hit. The story of tonight’s 4-1 win by the Nats was Joe Ross. In just his third career start, Ross pitched into the eighth inning and struck out 11 batters to help the Nationals snap the Pirates’ eight-game win streak.
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Right out of the gate, the Nationals were piecing together base hits against Pirates starter A.J. Burnett (6-3, 2.05). Denard Span led off the game with a base hit to right and was followed up by an Anthony Rendon base hit to right. Span went to third on the play due to Matt Williams putting on the hit-and-run. Yunel Escobar would drive in the Nats first run with a RBI groundout to short. Two batters later, Wilson Ramos picked up a RBI of his own with a double to center that scored Rendon to put the Nats up 2-0.
The only inning that the Pirates were able to get to Ross was the top of the second. With runners on the corners and one out, Gregory Polanco singled to right field to score Jung Ho Kang and put Pittsburgh on the board. It was the third single of the inning against Ross (Kang and Francisco Cervelli also singled during the inning).
The Nats would get that run back in the bottom of the third. Escobar began the inning with an infield single. He was able to advance to second when the throw by Kang went past Pedro Alvarez and into right field. After Clint Robinson moved him over to third on a fly out to center, Ramos drove in his second run of the night with a RBI single to center to extend the lead to 3-1.
Tonight, Joe Ross brought his A stuff to the mound. He was able to use his slider to finish off some of the good hitters in this Pirates order. He went 7.1 innings, gave up one run on six hits, struck out 11, and walked one on 102 pitches (73 strikes). Ross’ 11 strikeouts tied him for the most for any rookie starter this season. He even contributed on offense when he picked up an infield single in the fourth inning.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Nationals tacked on one more insurance run. With Clint Robinson on first and two outs, Danny Espinosa, who got the start at shortstop tonight, hit a ball off the right field wall for a RBI triple to make it 4-1 Nats.
Even with Bryce Harper out of the lineup due to a left hamstring strain and Ian Desmond getting the night off, the Nationals still put up 14 hits and scored four runs against a Pittsburgh team that had given up six combined runs in their last seven games. Plus, they were aggressive on the base paths as Espinosa and Michael Taylor each stole a base tonight. That being said, the Nats had chances to break the game open at times, but were 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
After Ross left the game in the top of the eighth, David Carpenter came in to the game with Jose Tabata (who was in for Gregory Polanco) on first base and one out. Carpenter would get Josh Harrison to fly out to center and Starling Marte to ground out to second to end the inning.
Then, in the ninth, Drew Storen came into the game to try to get that save. He had another impressive outing as he struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 inning to record his 20th save of the season and his first save since June 10.
Next Game: The Washington Nationals (35-33) will be back in action tomorrow afternoon at 4:05 PM ET against the Pittsburgh Pirates (39-28) for the second game of this three game series. You can catch the game on MASN2 and WUSA9. Max Scherzer (7-5, 1.95) gets the start for the Nats against Francisco Liriano (4-5, 2.94) for the Pirates.