Pittsburgh Pirates' starter Charlie Morton gave up back-to-back two-out walks to Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos in the first inning on Friday night, but Washington Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond hit a 93 mph 1-2 fastball to Bucs' second baseman Neil Walker in the next at bat, and Walker threw to second base for an inning-ending force.
Nats' center fielder and leadoff man Denard Span doubled to start the top of the third, but after Anthony Rendon bunted Span over to third base, and Jayson Werth walked, both runners were stranded when Wilson Ramos hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3.
A leadoff single by Desmond and stolen base in the fourth led nowhere.
The Nationals' starter, Jordan Zimmermann, singled to start the fifth, but was doubled up on a line drive to Pirates' first baseman Ike Davis. Washington scored its first run in the sixth when they loaded the bases with no one out and Greg Dobbs hit a sac fly deep enough to left to allow Jayson Werth to tag up and score from third, but Zach Walters K'd swinging for third time in his first three at bats and Pirates' reliever Jared Hughes came on to retire Nate McLouth and limit the damage in what was still a 4-1 game at that point.
Scott Hairston hit the second bases-loaded sac fly of the game for the Nationals in the eighth inning to make it 4-2 and a passed ball allowed Kevin Frandsen to score from third and get the Nats within one at 4-3, but with the tying run on second, Span grounded out to end the inning.
Anthony Rendon walked to start the ninth and was rounding the bases when Desmond flew to deep right field only to have Pirates' outfielder Josh Harrison make a lead-preserving leaping catch at the wall to bring down the final out of the game. On the night, in what ended up a one-run loss, the Nationals were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and 11 runners left on overall.
"It's part of the game to create those opportunities," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the loss left the Nationals 24-24 on the year. "We didn't come through tonight, but we've got to play tomorrow. It's good that we had those opportunities, so we'll go get them tomorrow again."
"We stole a base tonight, we had opportunities," he continued. "We put the righties up there against the lefty and lefties against righties. They scored one more than we did, so that's all we can look at right now other than trying to get them tomorrow, against a tough guy too."
Tonight in Pittsburgh, PA's PNC Park, the Nationals face Pirates' right-hander Gerrit Cole, the 23-year-old, 2011 no.1 overall pick, who takes the mound tonight with a (4-3) record, a 3.84 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 18 walks (2.76 BB/9) and 53 Ks (8.13 K/9) in nine starts and 58 2/3 IP so far in 2014.
The top pick in the 2011 Draft takes on the top pick from the Class of '09 at 7:15 pm EDT in Pittsburgh.
• We talked about the Nationals' loss, Jordan Zimmermann's start, the beer selection at PNC and more on the last night's edition of Nats Nightly: