Le Magnifique Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: The Pittsburgh Pirates put runners on second and third with no one out in the bottom of the second inning tonight and both runners ended up scoring on an RBI groundout by Starling Marte and a wild pitch to Clint Barmes by Washington Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann. 2-0 Pirates after two innings in PNC Park.
Pirates' first baseman Ike Davis singled to right to start the bottom of the fourth inning and one out later he scored on a Pedro Alvarez blast to center field that landed in the sculpted "Pirates" bushes beyond the outfield wall some 420-ish feet from home. 4-0 Pittsburgh.
The Nationals scored their first run in the sixth when Jayson Werth singled, went first-to-third™ on a Wilson Ramos' line drive to center and scored on a bases-loaded sac fly to left by Greg Dobbs. 4-1. In spite of the fact that they loaded the bases with no one out, it was the only run the Nats scored.
After loading the bases with one down, the Nationals got a sac fly from Scott Hairston and Kevin Frandsen scored on a passed ball/wild pitch from Pirates' right-hander Bryan Morris to make it 4-3. Denard Span stepped in with two on and two out and grounded back to the mound to end the top of the eighth.
Final score, 4-3 Pirates.
4. BABIP Blues: The Washington Nationals have been the victims of more than a few hard-hit balls that found their way to defenders this year. After last night's 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, which featured diving catches in the outfield by Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen, the Nationals, as a team, have a combined .278 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), which is the fourth lowest amongst National League teams, ahead of only the Braves' .273 BABIP, the Mets' .269 and the Padres' .266, far behind the Rockies' NL leading .325 BABIP.
As Nationals' radio man Dave Jageler noted on Twitter this afternoon, Jayson Werth has shown a tremendous capacity for hitting line drives right at people early this season:
Werth is snakebit. The league average on line drives is .671. Werth is hitting .435 on liners according to baseball reference. Ouch— Dave Jageler (@DaveJageler) May 23, 2014
It's not just the Nationals' hitters who are at the mercy of the BABIP gods. Nats' starters Jordan Zimmermann (.367 BABIP) and Stephen Strasburg (.358), were third and fourth, respectively, among major league starters before Zimmermann took the mound tonight, behind only the Giants' Tim Lincecum (.373) and the Red Sox' Clay Buchholz (.381) on the list of pitchers (starters or relievers) with the highest BABIPs so far in 2014.
Zimmermann, who celebrated his 28th birthday today, entered his 10th start of 2014 with a BABIP, the Nationals' pregame notes mentioned, that was 90+ points higher than the .275 BABIP he posted last season.
The Nats' '07 2nd Round pick matched up against the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight in the second game of four in PNC Park for just the second time in his six-year MLB career. Last time out against the Pirates, the right-hander gave up seven hits, a walk and three home runs (two by Andrew McCutchen) in a 5-3 loss in Nationals Park in 2012.
Tonight in PNC Park, Zimmermann started with a quick bottom of the first which ended with Andrew McCutchen grounding into the second double play in 136 career PAs vs the Nationals...
Worth noting: Tonight, Jordan Zimmermann will make his 1st career start on his birthday. He turns 28 yrs old today. Happy Birthday, Jordan!— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 23, 2014
1st: Josh Harrison rolled over a 2-2 slider and sent a weak roller to Zach Walters at third. Zimmermann left an 0-2 fastball up in the zone that Neil Walker lined the other way for a one-out opposite field single. Andrew McCutchen was 0 for 1 on the night after he grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 on a 1-0 slider. 10-pitch inning for Zimmermann, 0-0 after one.
2nd: Anthony Rendon dove for and rolled over a grounder toward right off Ike Davis' bat. No play on the sort-of infield single. Russell Martin worked the count full and lined to left for a double that moved Davis around to third. A 94 mph 2-2 fastball to Pedro Alvarez got the Pirates' third baseman looking, but Starling Marte's groundout to short brought Davis in for a 1-0 lead. Zimmermann spiked a 2-1 curve to Clint Barmes in the next at bat and Martin scored from third when it bounced off and got by Wilson Ramos behind the dish. 2-0 Pirates. Barmes took a two-out walk on Zimmermann's 23rd pitch of the inning. Three pitches later, the Nats' right-hander struck the opposing pitcher out to end a 26-pitch frame at 36 overall after two innings.
3rd: Josh Harrison hit a 1-2 curve out to short for out no.1. Neil Walker popped out to short left. Andrew McCutchen lined out to left to end an 11-pitch inning that left Zimmermann at 47 overall after three.
4th: Ike Davis lined to right on a 93 mph 2-1 fastball for a leadoff single in the Pirates' fourth. Russell Martin took an 0-2 fastball for a called strike three and out no.1, but Pirates' third baseman Pedro Alvarez got hold of a 1-0 changeup and hit a towering blast out to straight center and into the manicured "PIRATES" shrubs beyond the outfield wall. Two-run home run, 4-0 Pirates. Ian Desmond committed his 12th error of the year on a Starling Marte grounder to short when he threw wide of first and pulled Greg Dobbs off the bag. Marte was running when Clint Barmes hit a bloop single to center in the next at bat, putting runners on first and third with one down. Zimmermann hustled off the mound and scooped up a bunt by the opposing pitcher and shoveled it to Wilson Ramos, who tagged Marte out at home. Josh Harrison singled to left to load the bases with two down, but Neil Walker popped out to end the fourth. 25-pitch frame. 72 overall.
5th: Andrew McCutchen grounded out to short on a 93 mph 0-1 fastball. Ike Davis flew out to the track in left center for out no.2. Russell Martin stepped in with two down and walked, but Pedro Alvarez grounded out to third to end a 22-pitch inning. 94 pitches for Zimmermann after five.
6th: Ian Desmond backhanded a sharp one-hopper to short off Starling Marte's bat and made a spinning throw to first for the first out of the Pirates' sixth. Clint Barmes was hit (glanced by) a 93 mph 1-0 fastball and took his base. With Travis Snider up, Barmes stole second, but Snider K'd swinging and Josh Harrison flew out to center to end a 10-pitch inning that brought Zimmermann's outing to a close after 104 pitches.
• Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 104 P, 69 S, 9/4 GO/FO.
3. D.C. vs Charlie: Nationals' skipper Matt Williams went left-hand heavy in the second game of the Nats' four-game set in Pittsburgh tonight, trying to take advantage of the fact that 30-year-old right-hander Charlie Morton has been hit hard by left-handed bats in his seven-year MLB career.
In 1,325 plate appearances against Morton, left-handed hitters had a .320/.403/.477 line before tonight's start, though he'd limited the damage against lefties so far this season, holding LHB to a .240/.333/.280 line after 118 PAs.
• Random FBB Tweet (#carpentry = Carpenter + poetry):
"Kieboom! Bang! Zoom!" - #carpentry— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) May 24, 2014
Denard Span, Greg Dobbs, Zach Walters and Nate McLouth were all penciled into tonight's lineup against Morton, who took the mound with an (0-6) record, a 3.45 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 18 walks (2.83 BB/9) and 37 Ks (5.81 K/9) in nine starts and 57 1/3 IP so far in 2014.
Morton walked three batters in the first two innings, but completed two scoreless on 44 pitches.
Denard Span doubled to right for the first hit of the game off Morton in the first at bat of the third, and Span moved to third on a sac bunt by Anthony Rendon. Jayson Werth walked to put runners on the corners with one down, but Wilson Ramos grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3.
Ian Desmond singled to start the fourth and stole second one out later. Morton threw a 1-2 two-seamer inside to get Zach Walters looking for out no.2 and Nate McLouth flew out to center to end the Pirates' starter's fourth scoreless.
Jordan Zimmermann singled off Morton to start the fifth, but Denard Span lined into a double play at first. Anthony Rendon's fly to right ended Morton's fifth scoreless. 85 pitches after a 17-pitch frame.
Jayson Werth singled to start the sixth and took third on a single to center by Wilson Ramos. Morton hit Ian Desmond to load'em up with one down and a sac fly to left by Greg Dobbs got the Nationals on the board, 4-1. Zach Walters K'd swinging for out no.2 (0 for 3, 3 Ks) on Morton's last pitch of the game and Nate McLouth grounded to first on the second pitch from Pirates' reliever Jared Hughes. 4-1 Pirates after five and half in PNC.
• Charlie Morton's Line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 4 Ks, 108 P, 64 S, 6/4 GO/FO.
2. Zimmermann vs McCutchen: After going 1 for 2 with a run-scoring single and a bases-loaded HBP, 27-year-old defending NL MVP Andrew McCutchen sported a gaudy .397/.467/.819 line with six doubles, two triples and 13 HRs in 31 games and 135 career plate appearances against the Washington Nationals, and the Pirates' '05 1st Round pick was 2 for 3 with two home runs off Nats' starter Jordan Zimmermann in their respective careers.
There was a runner on for McCutchen in his first at bat in the bottom of the first inning, but he rolled into an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP. 0 for 1.
McCutchen's second at bat of the game came with two on and no one out in the Pirates third. The Bucs' three-hole hitter was 0 for 2 after he lined out to left on an 0-1 slider.
At bat no.3 came in the bottom of the fifth, and he was 0 for 3 after grounding out to short.
Drew Storen induced a groundout to the mound from McCutchen in his fourth trip to the plate.
1. The Wrap-Up: Both starters were out after six innings tonight in the second game of the four-game set.
The Nationals were 0 for 6 with RISP at that point. Pirates' lefty Justin Wilson took over on the mound in PNC Park, giving up a one-out single to right by Denard Span but nothing else.
Drew Storen threw a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh.
Justin Wilson came back out for another inning of work in the top of the eighth and gave up a one-out walk to Ian Desmond and back-to-back singles by Kevin Frandsen and Zach Walters that loaded the bases. Bryan Morris took over on the mound against Scott Hairston, who hit a sac fly to center to bring in the Nationals' second run, 4-2 Pirates.
A wild pitch/passed ball from Morris allowed Frandsen to score from third while Walters moved into scoring position. Morris hit Danny Espinosa to put two runners on with two out, but Denard Span grounded back to the mound to end the threat.
Tyler Clippard took over for the Nationals in the eighth and threw a scoreless 13-pitch inning, with one memorably high pitch:
Pirates' closer Jason Grilli walked Anthony Rendon to start the top of the ninth. Jayson Werth battled for seven pitches before he struck out swinging at a 94 mph 2-2 fastball up high. Wilson Ramos flew to center on a full-count fastball for out no.2. Ian Desmond flew to deep right field... where Josh Harrison made a leaping catch at the wall to end the game. 4-3 Pirates.
Nationals now 24-24