Pirates 3-2 over Nationals: Nats drop fourth straight, fall game below .500

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning, but the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied to take a 3-2 lead on a Josh Harrison single and the Bucs won the third straight game over the Nats, who dropped their fourth straight overall and fell below .500.

No.1 overall picks Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Both starters began tonight's game with three scoreless innings. Pittsburgh's 23-year-old starter, Gerrit Cole, was up to 51 pitches after three. Washington's 25-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg was up to 32. The Nationals struck first in the top of the fourth when Ian Desmond crushed an 87 mph 0-1 change and sent a solo home run sailing into the left field seats in PNC Park. Desmond's 9th HR of the year gave the visiting Nats a 1-0 lead after four in the third game of four in the Pirates' home.

Neil Walker took a 95 mph 1-1 fastball from Strasburg to deep center field and over a leaping Denard Span for his own solo blast in the bottom of the fourth, tying things up at 1-1 with his 10th HR of 2014.

Nats' third baseman Anthony Rendon started a two-out rally in the fifth with a single to left on a 96 mph 3-1 fastball from Cole, and promptly stole second with Jayson Werth at the plate. Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos stepped in with two on and two out and sent a 97 2-2 heater to right field for an RBI single that made it 2-1 Nats after four and a half in PNC.

Trailing by one after six and a half, the Pirates rallied in the home-half of the seventh. Russell Martin lined to left to start the frame and Starling Marte took a high 0-2 curve to right in the next at bat to put runners on second and third with one out. A sac fly to center by pinch hitter Jose Tabata tied things up at 2-2 and after an intentional walk to pinch hitter Travis Snider, Josh Harrison hit a two-out single to center to drive in the go-ahead run. 3-2 Pirates after seven.

That's how it ended. 3-2 Pirates. Nationals drop their third straight in PNC and their fourth straight overall to fall below .500 at 24-25.

4. 2009 No.1 overall: In his final season at San Diego State University in 2009, Stephen Strasburg was (13-1) with a 1.32 ERA, 19 walks (1.57 BB/9) and 195 K's (16.1 K/9) in 15 starts and 109 IP.

The Washington Nationals made Strasburg the no.1 overall pick that June. The right-hander made 11 starts in the Nats' system in 2010, going (7-2) with a 1.30 ERA, 13 walks (2.11 BB/9) and 65 Ks (10.57 K/9) in 55 1/3 IP before being called up to make his MLB debut in early June.

After 85 starts in the majors, the now-25-year-old Nats' starter is 32-22 with a 3.01 ERA, a 2.74 FIP, 139 walks (2.52 BB/9) and 578 Ks (10.50 K/9) in 495 2/3 IP, with time off to recover from Tommy John surgery and an elbow injury last season which required post-season surgery setting his development back some.

"You've got to hit his fastball because if he gets ahead of you at two strikes, he's got two wipeout pitches to go to..." Mike Rizzo on Stephen Strasburg on 106.7 the FAN - May, 2014

Through 10 starts this season, the Nationals' no.1 starter was (3-3) with a 3.38 ERA, 2.42 FIP, 16 walks (2.35 BB/9) and 74 Ks (10.86 K/9) in 61 1/3 IP before taking the mound tonight in PNC Park. Strasburg's struggled away from the nation's capital, however, with a 5.09 ERA over 23 IP on the road (as opposed to a 2.35 ERA in 38 1/3 IP in D.C.) and a .284/.333/.435 line away from Washington, (as opposed to a .243/.306/.306 line in Nationals Park).

Strasburg took the mound for his 11th start of the 2014 campaign tonight against the Pirates he made his MLB debut against in 2010.

In four starts vs Pittsburgh before tonight, the Nationals' right-hander was (2-1) with a 2.57 ERA, four walks (1.29 BB/9) and 47 Ks (15.11 K/9) in 28 IP, over which he'd held Pirates' hitters to a .168/.218/.305 line.

Strasburg was making his third career start in PNC Park, where he was (1-0) with a 3.46 ERA before tonight.

1st: Josh Harrison popped out to Anthony Rendon in foul territory off third. Neil Walker K'd chasing a 91 mph 1-2 change low in the zone away. Andrew McCutchen, who entered today's game 1 for 10 career vs Strasburg, flew out to center on an 81 mph 1-1 curve to end a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.

2nd: Ike Davis flew out to left on an 0-2 change to start the Pirates' second. Strasburg lost a first-pitch curve and hit Russell Martin in the left elbow, but Pedro Alvarez sent an 0-1 curve out to short where Ian Desmond turned a 6-3 DP to end a six-pitch second. 15 overall after two scoreless.

3rd: Starling Marte grounded out to third on a 2-2 change. Clint Barmes grounded out to short on an 80 mph 1-2 curve. Gerrit Cole popped to center for out no.3 to end a 17-pitch inning that left Strasburg at 32 pitches overall.

4th: Josh Harrison chased an 0-2 fastball upstairs for a swinging strike three and out no.1 of the Pirates' fourth. Neil Walker evened things up in the next at bat, however, taking a 95 mph 1-1 fastball to center for a solo home run. 1-1 game. Andrew McCutchen flew to right for the second out of the inning. Ike Davis walked with two down and took second on an opposite field single by Russell Martin. Pedro Alvarez stepped in with two on and two out and went down swinging at an 0-2 change. 20-pitch frame, 52 total.

5th: Starling Marte lined to right on a 94 mph 0-1 fastball for a leadoff single in the Pirates' fifth, but he was thrown out at second when he failed to slide into the bag thinking it was ball four to Clint Barmes on the pitch. Barmes K'd swinging at a full-count change for out no.2 and Strasburg set the opposing pitcher down swinging to end a 17-pitch frame at 69 pitches overall on the night.

6th: Josh Harrison took a hanging 1-2 curve for a ride to left, but Nate McLouth made a running catch in front of the outfield wall for out no.1. Neil Walker grounded weakly to first for out no.2. Andrew McCutchen spit on a 1-2 change in the dirt, laid of a high 2-2 heater and lined a one-hopper to short that bounced off Ian Desmond's glove and into left field. Ike Davis fell behind 1-2 and went down swinging at brutal curve. 22-pitch frame. 91 overall after six.

7th: Pirates' catcher Russell Martin lined to left for a leadoff single on the first pitch of the Pirates' seventh. Pedro Alvarez K'd swinging at a 94 mph 2-2 fastball for out no.1 and Strasburg's 7th K. Starling Marte doubled to right on an 0-2 curve to put runners on second and third with one down. Pinch hitter Jose Tabata stepped in with the tying run on third and lined out to Denard Span in center to tie it up. Travis Snider was walked intentionally after starting up 2-0. Josh Harrison came up with two on and two out and singled to center to make it a 3-2 game, with Marte scoring before Snider was thrown out at third. 110 pitches overall.

Stephen Strasburg's Line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 110 P, 71 S, 4/3 GO/FO.

3. 2011 No.1 overall: In his third and final season at UCLA in 2011, now-23-year-old Pittsburgh right-hander Gerrit Cole was (6-8) with a 3.31 ERA, 24 walks (1.89 BB/9) and 119 Ks (9.37 K/9) in 114 1/3 IP for the Bruins. The Pirates made Cole the no.1 overall pick of the 2011 Draft that June. Two years and just a few days after he went no.1, Cole made his major league debut on June 11, 2013 after 38 starts and 200 IP in the Pirates' system, over which he was (16-14) with a 2.84 ERA, 73 walks (3.29 BB/9) and 183 Ks (8.24 K/9).

Over the first 21 starts in his major league career, the Pirates' 6'4'' right-hander was (14-10) with a 3.43 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 46 walks (2.35 BB/9) and 153 Ks (7.82 K/9) in 176 IP before facing the Nats in PNC Park. Coming into tonight's game, Cole was (4-3) with a 3.79 ERA, a 3.86 FIP, 18 walks (2.73 BB/9) and 53 Ks (8.13 K/9) in 59 1/3 IP this season.

Cole faced the Nationals just once in his rookie campaign, allowing just two hits and one earned run in seven innings on the mound in a 5-1 win in the nation's capital.

"He had a couple fastballs: one a runner; one the bottom fell out and he had good breaking stuff to go with it. I can see why he was the no.1 pick." - Davey Johnson on Gerrit Cole

"I tip my hat," former Nats' manager Davey Johnson told reporters after that game. "That guy's got good stuff. And he was locating. He had a couple fastballs: one a runner; one the bottom fell out and he had good breaking stuff to go with it. I can see why he was the no.1 pick."

Cole's second career start against the Nationals tonight started with an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the first.

Greg Dobbs hit a two-out single to left field in the top of the second, but a 95 mph 0-2 fastball got Danny Espinosa swinging to end a 13-pitch frame that left Cole at 24 total after two.

Gerrit Cole hit Nate McClouth in the first at bat of the third, but Stephen Strasburg K'd trying to bunt with two strikes for the first out of the frame. McLouth advanced himself into scoring position with a stolen base. After Denard Span popped out for the second time in two at bats, Anthony Rendon battled his fellow 2011 1st Round pick for 11 pitches before taking a two-out walk. A 2-2 change outside to Jayson Werth got the Nats' outfielder looking to end a 27-pitch inning. 51 pitches in 3 IP.

Cole threw a 97 mph 0-2 fastball by Wilson Ramos to get the Nats' catcher looking for the first out of the fourth, but Ian Desmond broke up the scoreless tie in the next at bat when he sent an 87 mph 0-1 change out to the left field seats in PNC Park for a solo blast and a 1-0 Nats' lead. Cole limited the damage, however, and completed a 15-pitch frame at 66 overall after four.

The Pirates' starter turned his ankle on the final pitch of the fourth, but came back out to start the fifth and retired the first two batters he faced before he gave up a two-out single by Anthony Rendon, who promptly stole second on Cole and Pirates' catcher Russell Martin. Jayson Werth walked with two down to bring Wilson Ramos up with two on and his soft fly to right dropped in for an RBI single that made it a 2-1 game. Ian Desmond walked to load the bases for Greg Dobbs, who grounded out to first to end a 32-pitch frame that left Cole at 98 pitches total after five.

An 0-2 slider got Danny Espinosa looking for Cole's 7th K of the game on his 101st pitch in six-plus innings. Nate McLouth walked with one down and Strasburg bunted him over to second, but he was stranded there when Denard Span lined to right to end a 14-pitch frame that left Cole at 112 overall.

• Gerrit Cole's Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 112 P, 69 S, 6/1 GO/FO.

2. Difference Makers: Ian Desmond broke up a scoreless tie in the fourth with home run no.9 of 2014. The solo blast in his second at bat left the Nationals' shortstop 15 for 49 (.306 AVG) over the last 13 games with a double, triple and five home runs over that stretch as he finally started heating up at the plate.

Anthony Rendon came into tonight's game 12 for 74 (.162/.238/.243) in May, but worked a patient 11-pitch walk and singled to leave him 1 for 2 after his first three trips to the plate. Rendon stole his third base of the year after his fifth inning single, then scored from second on a two-out single to right by Wilson Ramos to make it a 2-1 game.

Josh Harrison was 1 for 4 tonight after an RBI single to center in the seventh gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead and he was 4 for 12 in the series at that point, with a few spectacular catches thrown into the mix.

1. The Wrap-Up: Pirates' RHP Jared Hughes took over on the mound in the seventh with Pittsburgh trailing 2-1 and threw a scoreless frame. After the Pirates took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the inning, right-hander Jeanmar Gomez came on and threw a quick, five-pitch frame.

Drew Storen retired the first two batters in Pirates' eighth before giving up a single by Ike Davis. A HBP on Russell Martin ended Storen's outing with Jerry Blevins coming on to face Pedro Alvarez. Blevins got the third out.

Pirates' closer Mark Melancon retired the Nationals in order. 3-2 final.

Nationals now 24-25.

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