Pittsburgh’s Pirates, who dropped all four games they played in Nationals Park back in early May, jumped out to a 6-0 lead tonight, and held on for a 6-3 win in the series opener in PNC Park.
Jefry Rodriguez gave up six in the first two innings, then threw three scoreless before he left the game after five. Juan Soto and Bryce Harper hit solo shots for the second and third runs in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively, for the Nationals, but the early deficit ended up being too much for the visiting team from Washington to overcome.
Rodriguez vs the Pirates: Jefry Rodriguez made his MLB debut with 4 2⁄3 scoreless in relief in Atlanta, filling in for the injured Jeremy Hellickson one batter into the game with the Braves, but in two starts since, he’s given up nine runs in nine innings, with opposing hitters posting a .265/.405/.588 line against him.
“He’s got good stuff, he really does,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters after the 24-year-old faced the Philadelphia Phillies last week.
“When he learns how to throw strike one, get ahead, and finish, he’s going to help us win a lot of games.”
Rodriguez got ahead of and failed to put away two of the first three batters he faced as the Pirates connected for three straight hits and jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first.
Gregory Polanco, who singled to drive in two, stole second, and scored on an RBI double to left by Colin Moran, 3-0.
With the score 3-1 Pirates, Corey Dickerson drove in a run with a triple to right field in the second, lining one towards the gap that a diving Adam Eaton couldn’t reach, 4-1.
Polanco hit one to the last few rows of the right field seats for a two-run blast that made it 6-1 Pirates after two.
Rodriguez kept it there through four, and the Nationals added runs on solo shot by Juan Soto (in the 5th) and Bryce Harper (in the 6th).
He was up to 90 pitches after five, and out at that point, with three scoreless to end his outing...
Jefry Rodriguez’s Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 90 P, 58 S, 5/3 GO/FO.
Nova vs the Nats: Ivan Nova got knocked around when he faced the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital back on May 2nd, giving up 11 hits total, two walks, and eight runs, five earned, over 4 2⁄3 innings in what ended up a 9-3 loss for the Pirates. Both Bryce Harper and Matt Adams took Nova deep in the home-half of the first in that game as the Nationals got a lead early and cruised to a win.
“They jumped on me early,” Nova told reporters that night, as quoted by MLB.com. “You see Harper in the first inning, Adams, they are an aggressive team. I missed some locations -- to those two guys especially -- and they took advantage of it.”
Adams, Daniel Murphy, and Adam Eaton connected for consecutive singles in the top of the second tonight, with Adams scoring on Eaton’s hit, though Murphy got thrown out at third, and Eaton ended up getting stranded, 3-1.
It was 6-1 in the fifth when Juan Soto hit a 3-2 fastball out to right and over the 21-foot tall Clemente Wall on a line for a two-out solo shot, his 9th of 2018. 6-2.
Bryce Harper sent a full-count fastball out to to center in PNC in the top of the sixth, over the PIRATES hedges for his 22nd of 2018.
Adam Eaton doubled with two down to end Nova’s night...
Ivan Nova’s Line: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks, 2 HRs, 91 P, 62 S, 5/5 GO/FO.
Benches clear, nothing happens: Adam Eaton started barking at home plate ump Gabe Morales over a ball that was called a strike in the sixth, and Bucs’ catcher Francisco Cervelli, who walked away from the plate as the two jawed at one another, didn’t like something that was said, so he came back and got in Eaton’s face, leading to both benches and bullpens clearing, though nothing came of it. Exciting.
Baserunning Rally Killer: Daniel Murphy ran into an out at third during the series with the Red Sox, trying to take an extra base on a one-out single by Wilmer Difo. It was 3-0 at the time, in Boston’s favor, and Murphy killed a potential rally in what ended up a 4-3 loss.
He said after the game that he’d do it again given the opportunity.
“I know I had the stop in front of me,” Murphy explained, “but I gave a peek, and if I’m not mistaken, I think Mookie [Betts] was shaded a little bit more towards right-center.
“I’m hitting in the six-hole, so [Wilmer Difo] is in the seventh, so I’m trying to get to third base with one out right there, to give [Pedro Severino] a chance to drive me in with the pitcher on deck. I’ll do that play 10 times out of 10.
“I would prefer not to get thrown out but I’ll do it every single time.”
Murphy went for an extra base early in tonight’s game too, on the third of three consecutive singles in the Nationals’ second, with the Pirates up 3-0 at the time. Adam Eaton singled to center to drive in Matt Adams, who’d singled to start the frame, but Murphy, who hit the middle single, obviously, went for it and was thrown out at third by Starling Marte, who’s now tied for first in the majors and took the National League lead with his 9th outfield assist of the season. Two Ks followed in the inning, and a potential rally was killed by making the first out at third, which baseball wisdom says you shouldn’t do. It’s No. 5 on the Unwritten Rules.
BULLPEN ACTION: Richard Rodriguez got the final out of the Nationals’ sixth, stranding Adam Eaton after a two-out double.
Matt Grace took over for the Nationals in the bottom of the sixth inning, with the score 6-3 Bucs, and tossed a scoreless, 14-pitch frame, working around a two-out walk.
Rodriguez returned with a 1-2-3 seventh, which ended with an unhappy Juan Soto striking out after trying to step out on a 1-2 pitch when time wasn’t called, so he took a strike when he wasn’t in the box. He was not happy.
Shawn Kelley took the mound for the Nationals in the bottom of the seventh and tossed a quick, scoreless, 14-pitch frame.
Edgar Santana handled the eight for the Pirates, retiring the side in order on 11 pitches.
Justin Miller needed nine pitches to get through a quick bottom of the eighth.
Felipe Vazquez, formerly Felipe Rivero, gave up a bloop single to short left by Daniel Murphy in the top of the ninth, and a one-out single to left by Matt Wieters, but got a game-ending 6-4-3 DP out of Mark Reynolds.
Final Score: 6-3 Pirates
Nationals now 45-45