Bryce Harper With Walk-Off Winner: Nationals Blow Lead In 9th, Beat Pirates 9-7

Greg Fiume

With some help from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who committed three errors in a four-run first, the Washington Nationals got out to an early 4-0 lead and added runs late to go up 7-3, but the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied to tie it with a four-run ninth but Bryce Harper hit a two-out walk-off winner.

Bryce Harper came off a day of rest for his left knee with a diving catch in the left-center gap to rob Starling Marte of a hit in the first at bat of this afternoon's game with the Pittsburgh Pirates in Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park. Harper pulled up short on a line drive single to left by Jordy Mercer in the next at bat and Gio Gonzalez issued a two-out walk to Russell Martin to put to two on with two out, but after a quick conversation with himself on the mound, the Nats' left-handed starter struck Pedro Alvarez out with a 2-2 fastball to end a 23-pitch first inning in the finale of the four-game set with the visiting Pirates.

Harper was hit by a pitch in the first at bat of the Nats' first, then almost tagged out when he went too far around second on a Lombardozzi bunt, but the Bucs botched the rundown and threw the ball away past third, allowing Harper to score for an early 1-0 Nationals' lead. Ryan Zimmerman's RBI line drive to right brought Lombardozzi around to make it 2-0, and after Ian Desmond's two-out line drive to left, Denard Span singled Zimmerman in with a line drive single to right on which the Pirates committed the second of three errors they made in the first, allowing Desmond to score as well and make it 4-0 Nats after one.

Gaby Sanchez went back up the middle with a 2-2 heater for a leadoff single in the Pirates' second. Josh Harrison got hold of a 2-2 curve and singled to left in the next at bat. Gio Gonzalez, pitched his way out of trouble, however, getting a swinging K from Clint Barmes, a called strike three on A.J. Burnett and some help from Steve Lombardozzi who made a diving stop and toss to Ian Desmond at second for an inning-ending force on a sharp grounder off Starling Marte's bat. 24-pitch inning for Gonzalez, 47 overall after two scoreless.

Ryan Zimmerman chopped an 0-2 curve straight down off the plate for a high bouncer to second that Jordy Mercer handled, but the throw to first was too late. Adam LaRoche's fly to left ended the second though, with A.J. Burnett up to 41 pitches total after a 15-pitch frame.

Gio Gonzalez walked Jordy Mercer in the first at bat of the third. Gonzalez missed with a 3-1 fastball outside to put the first two runners of the inning on, but Russell Martin K'd swinging at a wicked 2-2 bender for out no.1 and the Nats' lefty's fifth K in 2 1/3 innings pitched and Pedro Alvarez lined out to a diving Steve Lombardozzi at second allowing Lombardozzi to pop up and hustle over to second for an inning ending unassisted DP. 20-pitch inning for Gonzalez, 67 overall after three. A.J. Burnett was at 48 pitches total after a seven-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the third. 4-0 Nats in the series finale.

Gio Gonzalez couldn't get to a weak grounder toward first by Gaby Sanchez, who reached on a infield single, but the Nats' lefty threw a 1-2 heater by Josh Harrison for the first out of the fourth and his sixth K of the game. Clint Barmes doubled to left on a first-pitch fastball to put runners on second and third with one down and A.J. Burnett grounded out to first to bring in the Pirates' first run of the game, 4-1 Nationals. A 1-2 curve to Starling Marte got a check-swing strike three and Gonzalez's seventh K in four innings of work. 15-pitch inning, 82 overall after four. A.J. Burnett's four-pitch bottom of the inning vs the Nationals had the Pirates' right-hander at 52 pitches total after four.

Jordy Mercer doubled to right on a 1-0 heater to start the top of the fifth. Andrew McCutchen's groundout moved the runner to third, but Gio Gonzalez got Russell Martin swinging with a full-count curve outside for out no.2 and K no.8 in 4 2/3 innings pitched and then threw a 2-2 fastball by Pedro Alvarez for a called strike three, out no.3 and the Nats' lefty's ninth K. 16-pitch inning, 98 pitches total.

Steve Lombardozzi doubled to start the Nationals' fifth, sending a 1-1 fastball to center for his 10th two-base hit of 2013. Ryan Zimmerman got his second infield single and third hit in three at bats in the AB that followed, sending Lombardozzi over to third with no outs and a HBP on Adam LaRoche loaded the bases with no one out. Jayson Werth took an 0-2 fastball outside for a called strike three and the first out of the Nats' fifth. Ian Desmond took a low 3-2 heater outside for another called third strike and turned and had words with home plate ump Mike Winters, so Davey Johnson came out to defend his player and got himself tossed for the first time this season. Denard Span's groundout to second left the bases loaded and kept it 4-1 Nats after five in D.C.

Gaby Sanchez was 3 for 3 today after a leadoff single in the Pirates' sixth, and it was a one-run game three pitches later after Josh Harrison hit his first home run of the year into the Red Porch seats to make it a 4-3 game in the nation's capital. Gio Gonzalez added two more Ks for 11 total in 5 2/3, but a two-out walk to Staring Marte ended Gio's day after 119 pitches. Craig Stammen came on to face Jordy Mercer. Marte stole second. But a groundout to third and a nice play by Adam LaRoche to handle a wide throw by Ryan Zimmerman ended the top of the inning with the score still 4-3 Nationals.

Gio Gonzalez's Line: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 11 Ks, 119P, 42S, 3/0 GO/FO.

Bryce Harper doubled to left on a 1-0 change with two down in the Nationals' sixth, but Steve Lombardozzi's line drive to Andrew McCutchen in center left the Nats with a one-run lead after six.

Pedro Alvarez singled off Craig Stammen with two out in the top of the seventh when Steve Lombardozzi couldn't get to his grounder, but Ian Desmond backed Lombardozzi up and when he saw Alvarez take a step toward second before running past first, Desmond threw behind the runner and got the call from first base ump Laz Diaz. Clint Hurdle came out and gave Diaz the business, but it looked like the right call. Both managers tossed. 4-3 Nats after six and a half in D.C.

Adam LaRoche singled with one down in the Nationals' seventh, but Jayson Werth took another questionable called third strike for the second out of the inning. Ian Desmond worked the count full against Burnett and checked his swing on a fastball inside to put two runners on with two out, but Chad Tracy's pinch hit groundout ended the seventh inning in D.C.

Tyler Clippard came out to work the top of the eighth and did his thing, getting fly ball outs from Travis Snider and Josh Harrison for two quick outs. A pop to second by Garrett Jones ended a quick six-pitch eighth for the Nationals' right-handed reliever. Still 4-3 Nationals. Roger Bernadina walked with one down in the Nats' half of the inning, then went first-to-third™ on a Bryce Harper single before scoring on an opposite field ground-rule double that made it a 5-3 game in the Nationals' favor. One out later, Adam LaRoche hit a two-run line drive to right and by a diving Travis Snider for a two-run triple that made it 7-3 Nationals.

Rafael Soriano came out for the ninth in a non-save situation. Neil Walker walked to start the ninth. Starling Marte took the second straight free pass and Jordy Mercer double to left-center made it a 7-4 game. Soriano got Andrew McCutchen swinging with a 2-2 slider for out no.1, but Russell Martin's one-out single to left made it 7-5 Nats, so Nationals' fill-in skipper Randy Knorr went to the pen for Ian Krol vs Pedro Alvarez. Base-loading walk. Jose Tabata stepped in next and K'd swinging at a 2-2 change. TWO!! Josh Harrison? Two-run single. 7-7 game after eight and a half.

Bryan Morris got a grounder back to the mound from Scott Hairston. Kurt Suzuki singled with one down, but was forced out at second on a Roger Bernadina grounder. Bryce Harper stepped in with two down and hit a walk-off winner!!! OMFG!! HARPER! HARPER! OVER THE #NATITUDE SIGN!!! 9-7 #NATS

Nationals now 49-53

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