Ian Desmond's away grey jersey was tucked neatly into his belted pants at the start of tonight's game. He had a moment with his bat, telling it, "Bat, we can do this," and probably thought "#steak" to himself before he stepped in to face Pittsburgh Pirates' starter A.J. Burnett with one down in the top of the first in PNC Park. Desmond was the second straight Washington National, after Denard Span, to K swinging in the opening frame and a Bryce Harper groundout to second ended an 18-pitch, 1-2-3 inning for Burnett.
Ross Detwiler went with a 1-2 slider on his fourth pitch of the game, throwing a 79 mph bender Starling Marte fouled off, then followed that up with a 93 mph heater that got the Pirates' left fielder swinging for the first out of the Pirates' half of the first inning. One out later, a 2-1 two-seamer to Andrew McCutchen was crushed for a solo blast that made it a 1-0 game. The Pirates' 26-year-old center fielder entered play today with a .442/.505/.907 career line against the Nationals, with six doubles, two triples and 10 home runs in 23 games and 101 PAs. Make that 11 HRs in 102 PAs. 1-0 Pirates after one.
Adam LaRoche singled with one down in the second for the Nationals' first hit off A.J. Burnett but two quick groundouts followed and the towering Pirates' right-hander had two scoreless on 33 pitches in PNC Park. A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 second for Ross Detwiler had the Nats' lefty up to 30 pitches, down 1-0 to the Pirates.
Pedro Alvarez double-pumped on a weak grounder toward third by Kurt Suzuki, who was quick enough to beat the momentarily delayed throw to Pirates' first baseman Gaby Sanchez. Infield single. Detwiler dropped an audible f-bomb at the plate after failing to get a bunt down on a 1-2 pitch from Burnett. Denard Span popped up to Alvarez at third, and Desmond grounded into a force at second to end the top of the third inning. The Bucs' starter hit a one-hopper to second for the first out of the home-half of the frame. Ross Detwiler hung an 0-2 slider a little more than he probably wanted to, but Starling Marte lined it harmlessly to center. A 2-2 fastball up high got Jordy Mercer swinging and the Nats' lefty had a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 inning. 40 pitches total.
A weak grounder to first by Bryce Harper and a swinging K by Ryan Zimmerman had two down quickly in the top of the fourth. After collecting his fifth K in 3.2 IP, A.J. Burnett walked Adam LaRoche then got behind Tyler Moore 2-0, but after back-to-back fastballs inside, Burnett tried one too many and gave up a two-out line drive single to center. A single to right by Danny Epsinosa in the next at bat brought LaRoche around to make it a 1-1 game before Moore got thrown out trying to take third on Espinosa's hit. Tied in the fourth. Andrew McCutchen singled, of course, to start the Pirates' half of the fourth. Denard Span was flat on his back, sliding in on the grass when he caught a low liner to center by Gaby Sanchez. Detwiler got Brandon Inge swinging with a 2-2 heater up high at 94 mph for out no.2 after a one-out walk to Russell Martin, got Pedro Alvarez on three-straight sinkers to end a 19-pitch frame at 59 overall.
A.J. Burnett retired the Nationals in order in a 12-pitch fifth. Denard Span caught the first two outs of the Pirates' fifth, the second, off Burnett's bat, just inches above the center field grass. Starling Marte hit a grounder to center Span had no chance to catch for a two-out single, then took a base on the Nationals' starter by sprinting to the bag as Detwiler threw to first on a pick attempt. Jordy Mercer got hold of a 2-0 fastball in the next AB and drove it to left and just out of Bryce Harper's reach, over the fence for a two-out, two-run home run and a 3-1 Pirates' lead. Andrew McCutchen was 3 for 3 tonight and 41 for 89 career vs the Nationals after a two-out single, and Detwiler was up to 79 pitches when he popped Gaby Sanchez up to end the frame.
Bryce Harper beat out a grounder up the middle Clint Barmes got to behind second for a one-out single, but Harper got picked off by A.J. Burnett with Ryan Zimmerman at the plate, and the Zim groundout that followed ended the top of the sixth for Pittsburgh's right-hander. Still 3-1 Pirates. A leadoff walk to Russell Martin ended Ross Detwiler's night after 84 pitches. Pinch hitter Travis Snyder grounded back to the mound and off Craig Stammen, who recovered quickly and handled it. Ryan Zimmeran did the old charge and throw for out no.2 on a weak grounder from Pedro Alvarez, and did a crow hop and throw for out no.3 on a grounder to third by Clint Barmes. 3-1 Pirates after six.
Adam LaRoche K'd swinging to start the seventh, Burnett's 8th K. Tyler Moore flew to right. Danny Espinosa K'd looking on an ankle-high full-count heater. 3-1 Pirates. Starling Marte was 2 for 4 tonight after a one-out, line drive single to left off Craig Stammen. Marte stole second without an infielder covering the bag, so no throw. Balk apparently. Suzuki didn't bother throwing to third either when Marte stole that base too. Stammen got Jordy Mercer swinging with a 3-2 slider for out no.2 and a grounder to third by Andrew McCutchen ended the seventh.
Pinch hitter Chad Tracy reached first on an error by Pedro Alvarez, who dropped a one-out liner of the veteran bench bat's bat. Roger Bernadina took over on the basepaths for Tracy with Denard Span up against Mark Melancon. Span K'd swinging, but a two-out single to right by Ian Desmond sent Bernadina around to third to bring Bryce Harper up with two on and two out in a two-run game, but a 1-2 fastball outside got the Nats' outfielder swinging to end the inning. Still 3-1 Pirates. Ryan Mattheus gave up a leadoff single by Gaby Sanchez (2 for 4) and a one-out single by Travis Snyder but two fly ball outs ended the Pirates eighth with the score still 3-1.
Jason Grilli came on to close it out. A 94 mph 1-2 fastball got Ryan Zimmerman looking. Adam LaRoche hit a one-out single to left-center to put a runner on for Tyler Moore. A 93 mph 2-2 fastball outside got Tyler Moore looking for out no.2. Danny Espinosa... took a 1-1 slider outside for a called strike, and K'd looking at a 93 mph heater. Ballgame.
Pirates win, 3-1 final.
Nationals now 15-15.