Anthony Rendon started the scoring in the fifth, with a two-out, two-run home run to left field off of right-hander Joe Musgrove, and the Washington Nationals added three in the sixth (two of them on bases-loaded walks) as they cruised to a 5-1 win over Pittsburgh’s Pirates to set up a rubber match in the series finale tomorrow afternoon at 12:35 PM EDT in PNC Park (which is only available on Facebook, we’re warning you right now).
Hellickson vs the Pirates: Jeremy Hellickson was unbeaten in his first nine starts with the Nationals (2-0) with a 2.28 ERA and a .219/.258/.361 line against in 43 1⁄3 IP before a DL stint for an injured hamstring interrupted his first season with Washington after signing a minor league deal this winter and working his way up to the big league rotation.
That 2.28 ERA was up to 3.81 after his first two outings off the DL, however, a decent if brief start on the road in Philadelphia (7 H, 3 R, 4 2⁄3 IP) and a rough outing at home against Miami (9 H, 9 R, 8 ER in 4 IP) in which he was dealing with flu-like symptoms.
Hellickson was much sharper this time out, tossing 2 2⁄3 hitless before he gave up back-to-back singles by Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte.
A balk with Gregory Polanco up put runners on second and third, but he caught the Pirates’ outfielder looking with a backdoor, 3-2 slider for out No. 3 of a 20-pitch inning that left him at 46 pitches after 3.0 scoreless.
A quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth, and a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth ended his outing, as the Nats got a walk and back-to-back singles to load the bases with one out in the sixth, and Mark Reynolds took over at the plate for the pitcher...
Jeremy Hellickson’s Line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 67 P, 45 S, 7/3 GO/FO.
Five shutout innings courtesy of Jeremy Hellickson. pic.twitter.com/5HchOLb5qj— #VoteTrea (@Nationals) July 11, 2018
Musgrove vs the Nationals: Joe Musgrove, 25, and a former first round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays, who was traded to Houston and later acquired by Pittsburgh in last January’s deal that sent Gerrit Cole to the Astros, snapped a four-start winless streak with seven scoreless against the San Diego Padres last time out before tonight.
That outing, which took place on June 29th, left the righty (3-3) in seven starts this season with a 3.79 ERA and a .280/.335/.398 line against in 40 1⁄3 innings in his third major league campaign, but he landed on the Disabled List after that start.
Musgrove returned from a DL stint for an infection in his right index finger tonight, and got off to a rocky start, loading the bases in a 27-pitch first but escaping the inning without any damage as he struck out three batters. He worked around two hits by Daniel Murphy (2 for 2, 2B) and a single by Juan Soto in four scoreless, but Soto singled again with two down in the fifth, and Anthony Rendon followed with a two-run shot to left on a first-pitch cutter, 2-0 Nationals. Rendon’s 13th. Musgrove picked up his 9th K before he was done after five.
Joe Musgrove’s Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 Ks, 1 HR, 96 P, 69 S, 3/2 GO/FO.
Rendon Again: Jeremy Hellickson was cruising through four, but the Nationals’ offense had not mustered any support through 4 2⁄3 against Pirates’ righty Joe Musgrove. Juan Soto hit one hard to third with two down, however, and beat the throw to first, and after a mound visit for the Bucs’ starter, Anthony Rendon stepped in and hit a first-pitch cutter out to left field for a two-out, two-run home run that got the Nationals on the board. The homer was Rendon’s 13th of 2018 and his 7th in his last 79 plate appearances, after he hit six over his first 226 PAs.
BULLPEN ACTION: Steven Brault took over on the mound in the top of the sixth and gave up a one-out walk to Trea Turner, back-to-back singles by Daniel Murphy (3 for 3) and Spencer Kieboom, and a bases-loaded walk to pinch hitter Mark Reynolds which put the Nationals up 3-0.
Adam Eaton connected for the third hit of the inning, lining an RBI single to left to make it a 4-0 lead, and Juan Soto took the second bases-loaded walk of the inning to make it 5-0.
Tyler Glasnow took over for the Pirates at that point, with Rendon at the plate, and got a double play grounder to end the inning.
Matt Grace gave up a leadoff walk after taking over in the bottom of the sixth, and a one-out infield single. Grace got out No. 2 of the Pirates’ half of the inning, but Davey Martinez went with Brandon Kintzler against Elias Diaz, and Kintzler got a grounder to second for out No. 3.
Daniel Murphy was 4 for 4 on the night with two doubles after he lined a 2-1 fastball from Glasnow to right with two out and Matt Adams on (after a single) in the top of the seventh, but Adams got thrown out at home for the final out of the inning. Still 5-0.
Josh Bell singled to start the Pirates’ seventh, moved up on a wild pitch, and took third base on a throwing error by Bryce Harper, who made a nice play to catch a low liner off the bat of Jordy Mercer in center, then threw wildly to third (when Bell wasn’t going anywhere). E:8. An RBI groundout by Max Moroff brought Bell in, 5-1 Nationals after seven.
Adam Eaton was 2 for 4 and Juan Soto was 3 for 4 on the night after back-to-back, two-out singles in the top of the eighth, but both of them were stranded.
Ryan Madson needed eight pitches to get through a scoreless eighth. Kelvin Herrera got the ninth, and worked around a leadoff single, a two-out walk, and a two-out single... to load’em up for Francisco Cervelli, who fell behind 0-2, and went down swinging to end a scoreless frame.
Final Score: 5-1 Nationals
Nationals now 46-45