Washington Nationals Clinch NL East Title In Victory Over Pirates

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Sep 24, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Stephen Drew (10) hits a two run single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Stephen Drew (10) hits a two run single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Washington Nationals clinched the NL East due to a Mets loss and their 6-1 win over the Pirates

Tonight, at PNC Park, the Washington Nationals (90-64) defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates (77-77) by a final score of 6-1. With their win and the Mets 10-8 loss to the Phillies, the Nats clinched their third NL East title in the last five years.

Right out of the gate, the Washington Nationals scored three runs against Ivan Nova. Trea Turner and Jayson Werth led off with back-to-back singles. Then, Bryce Harper drove Turner in with a sacrifice fly to left to put the Nats up 1-0.

Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, Stephen Drew delivered a base hit up the middle to increase the lead to 3-0. Drew was one of three Washington Nationals tonight to have a multi-hit game Werth and Wilson Ramos were the other two, although Ramos went 3-for-5.

On the mound, it was Joe Ross who was making his second start since returning to the rotation. Ross showed good command early, but ran into trouble in the third. Josh Bell got Pittsburgh on the board with a solo home run to right, his third of the season, to cut the Nats lead to 3-1.

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Ross would strike out Andrew McCutchen, but then hit Jung Ho Kang, allow a base hit to John Jaso, and walked Sean Rodriguez before leaving the game. He went 2.2 innings, gave up one run on five hits, struck out four, and walked one on 63 pitches (38 strikes). Sean Burnett would get Matt Joyce to fly out to right to end that inning.

In the fourth, the Nats tacked on three more insurance runs and took advantage of some bad fielding. Danny Espinosa and Brian Goodwin (pinch-hitter) each reached base via bunt with Francisco Cervelli throwing the ball away on Goodwin’s bunt. Then, Jayson Werth hit a groundball to short that Rodriguez made a bad throw to the plate on.

With the score 4-1 after that error by Rodriguez, the Nats tacked on two more runs via an error by Adam Frazier on a Harper groundball and a sacrifice fly to left by Rendon.

Arugably, the star of the night was Reynaldo Lopez. He started the fourth and the young right-hander was able to save the bullpen He threw 5.1 innings, gave up two hits, struck out six, and walked two on 85 pitches (57 strikes) in the win. When Lopez went to the breaking ball, he found great success. Out of the six strikeouts he had, three of them came via the breaking ball.

Lopez ran into trouble in the ninth when he allowed a single and a walk, which ended his night. Baker used Marc Rzepczynski and Blake Treinen to get the final two outs of the night.

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After the win, the Nats waited around for the Mets game to go final. Once the New York game was officially over, the team celebrated in the clubhouse. Now that the NL East title is clinched, the next race to watch is for home field in the first round against the Dodgers. At this point, the Nats have a two game lead on Los Angeles with eight to play.

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