Pittsburgh's 26-year-old left-hander Jeff Locke was an Atlanta Braves' '06 2nd Round pick acquired by the Pirates along with OF Gorkys Hernandez and right-hander Charlie Morton in the June 2009 deal that sent outfielder Nate McLouth from the Bucs to the Braves. Locke made his sixth start of the season this afternoon, coming off back-to-back scoreless outings against the Phillies and Cardinals in which threw thirteen innings total without allowing a run. Locke was facing a team that came into play with a .196/.262/.318 line against left-handed pitching so far in 2013. The Nationals were coming off a couple rough offensive games the last two times they faced lefties, namely Reds' rookie Tony Cingrani and Braves' veteran Paul Maholm. Locke needed 11 pitches to retire the Nationals in order in the opening frame in PNC Park. The Pirates' starter would leave the game with two runners on and a 4-2 lead in jeopardy the sixth...
• Here's How It Happened:
Stephen Strasburg, whose first inning issues have been a big topic of concern, hit Starling Marte with an 0-2 pitch in the first at bat of Pittsburgh's first then had the Pirates' leadoff man steal second as Chris Snyder struck out and advance to third on a throwing error by Nats' catcher Wilson Ramos. Would it be just the challenge Strasburg needed? A man in scoring position at third with one out, and a strikeout needed to avoid giving up an early run? Strasburg got Andrew McCutchen swinging with a 2-2 change in the dirt and then popped Garrett Jones up to second to end a 15-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.
Locke issued back-to-back one-out walks in the second, putting Adam LaRoche and Tyler Moore on, but got a 6-4-3 inning-ending DP from Nats' catcher Wilson Ramos to end his second scoreless inning of work vs the Nationals after 18 pitches at 29 overall. Stephen Strasburg needed just nine pitches to set the Pirates' down in order in the bottom of the frame, getting Russell Martin to ground out to second, Pedro Alvarez to pop out to Danny Espinosa and Jordy Mercer to ground out to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, whose throw to first was high but in time. 2.0 scoreless on 24 pitches for Strasburg.
Roger Bernadina was the second runner of the game to reach base, on the second HBP of the afternoon. The third runner reached on an error by Pirates' shortstop Clint Barmes, who sailed a throw to first on a Strasburg grounder. Bernadina took third on the E and there were runners on the corners when Danny Espinosa K'd looking at an 0-2 fastball for the first out of the frame. Ian Desmond got hold of a 1-2 change in the next at bat and sent a long fly ball to center that Andrew McCutchen caught as Bernadina tagged and scored. 1-0 Nats after two and a half. Clint Barmes tried to make up for his error with a leadoff single in the Pirates' third. Jeff Locke got a bunt down to move Barmes into scoring position with Starling Marte due up and the Bucs' left fielder hit a 95 mph first-pitch fastball from Strasburg to right-center and out for a two-run opposite field home run and a 2-1 Pirates' lead after three.
Ryan Zimmerman hit a line drive to left in the first at bat of the fourth, and he was off to the races after Starling Marte misplayed it from a double into a leadoff triple. A sac fly to right field by Adam LaRoche tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fourth. Jeff Locke retired the next two Nats to end the top of the fourth at 59 pitches. Strasburg started the bottom of the inning at 42 overall and no.43 was a backdoor bender that fell in for strike one to Pirates' first baseman Garrett Jones. Strasburg left an 0-2 pitch up for Jones and gave up a single to right that Tyler Moore recovered quickly enough to hold the runner at first. A 1-1 change to Russell Martin got a grounder to third to start a 5-4-3 and an 89 mph 0-2 change got Pedro Alvarez swinging to end a nine-pitch inning after which Strasburg was at 51 pitches overall.
Danny Espinosa's eighth double of the year bounced off the wall in center field in PNC Park with two down in the top of the fifth, but Ian Desmond's second backwards K of the day left his fellow middle infielder in scoring position in what remained a 2-2 game after four and half. Jordy Mercer singled to right on a high 96 mph 1-1 fastball for the second straight leadoff hit off Stephen Strasburg in the Pirates' fifth. The Nats' right-hander missed with a first-pitch fastball to Clint Barmes in the next at bat then surrendered another two-run home run on the 1-0 pitch which ended up in the left-center field bullpen in PNC Park. Two-run home run, 4-2 Pirates. 12 pitches, two Ks and three quick outs later, Strasburg was through the fifth at 68 overall after a 17-pitch inning.
Bryce Harper hit a bloop single to center to start the sixth. Ryan Zimmerman walked in the next at bat to put two on for Adam LaRoche. Jeff Locke exited the game after putting two on. Pirates' manager Clint Hurdle turned to another left-hander, Justin Wilson, against the left-handed LaRoche. A walk to the Nats' first baseman loaded the bases for Tyler Moore, who was punched out on a 1-2 curve low and away. Wilson Ramos stepped in next and singled to center, however, to tie it at 4-4 in the top of the sixth. Roger Bernadina K'd swinging with two down in the at bat that followed and Strasburg went down looking to strand two in a tie game.
Walk no. 1 of the game went to Andrew McCutchen and it was followed by K no.6 for Stephen Strasburg, who got Garrett Jones swinging with a brutal 1-2 change. Strasburg hit Russell Martin in the next at bat, putting two runners on with one out then struck Pedro Alvarez out with another cruel change and got a fly to left from Jordy Mercer to end the sixth. 85 overall after a 17-pitch frame. Still 4-4 in Pittsburgh.
An Ian Desmond grounder to third bounced off Pedro Alvarez's heel, and rolled away from the infielder, putting one on with one out in the top of the seventh. Back-to-back two-out walks to Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche loaded them up again and ended Justin Wilson's day. Tyler Moore faced off against new pitcher, Bryan Morris with the bases loaded and two down and K'd swinging at a 2-2 curve to leave'em loaded and keep it tied. 4-4 after six and a half in PNC Park. Strasburg started the seventh at 85 pitches and ended it at 95 when Starling Marte K'd swinging over an 0-2 bender for the third out in a 1-2-3 frame. Still 4-4.
• Strasburg's Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 2 HR, 95 P, 65 S, 9/1 GO/FO. P2K+P2C?
Steve Lombardozzi hit for Strasburg with two down in the top of the eighth against Pirates' lefty Tony Watson and reached base on a grounder to the right side that was deep enough in the hole for a hit. Danny Espinosa got hit in the next at bat to bring Ian Desmond up in the hero spot. Could Desmond do it? Would he have his #steak? Fly to right. 4-4 after seven and a half. 10 LOB acc. to FOX broadcast. Tyler Clippard took over in the bottom of the eighth. Andrew McCutchen was 0 for 2 with a walk before he lined a 2-0 pitch to left for a one-out single, but he got doubled up off first on a broken bat liner back to the mound by Garrett Jones. 4-4 after eight.
Pirates' lefty Tony Watson came back for a second inning of work in the ninth. Bryce Harper K'd swinging for out no.1. Ryan Zimmerman took a 2-2 pitch on the foot to bring Adam LaRoche (0 for 0, 3 BB, sac fly) up in the Nats' ninth. LaRoche lined to right on another 2-2 pitch in what was his first official AB. With Tyler Moore up, the Nationals pulled a double steal with Zimmerman and LaRoche (really?) to put both runners in scoring position with one down and a sac fly to right by Tyler Moore made it 5-4 after eight and half. You know what that means: "Pitch it, Soriano! Pitch it, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano!" Rafael Soriano gave up a leadoff hit by Russell Martin, but the Pirates' catcher tried to take second and got thrown out by the Shark! Roger Bernadina picked his pitcher up with a perfect throw from left-center. [CHOMP!] One down. Pedro Alvarez popped up to the infield TWO!!! Jordy Mercer? Swinging K. Ballgame. Save no.10.
Work's done, untuck that jersey, son!!
Nationals win, 5-4 final.
Nationals now 16-15