Paolo Espino is our favorite starter. We called him first. Nope. We called it. Espino tossed a total of five scoreless innings on 53 pitches this afternoon in the nation’s capital, holding a struggling Pittsburgh Pirates (who had lost nine straight going into the series finale) to just three hits in what ended up a 3-1 win for the Washington Nationals. Yan Gomes’ solo home run and Josh Bell’s two-run shot provided all the offense the home team needed to finish a three-game sweep.
Espino vs PIT: Paolo Espino stepped in for Max Scherzer last Friday night, when Scherzer tweaked his groin 12 pitches into his outing, and Espino gave the Nationals 3 1⁄3 innings in relief, over which he gave up just three hits (one a home run) and one run, walking no one and striking out five in a 56-pitch effort in what ended up a 1-0 loss.
In 14 games, one start, and 22 2⁄3 IP this season, Espino, 34, had put up a 2.78 ERA, three walks, 19 Ks, and a .193/.221/.373 line against going into today’s start.
And he got off to a good start, retiring the first eight batters he faced, before the opposing pitcher, Chase De Jong, lined an 0-1 fastball into the left-center gap for a two-out double in the top of the third, but Espino stranded the first runner to reach base and completed three scoreless on 24 pitches.
Pirates’ center fielder Bryan Reynolds doubled to right with one out in the fourth, and took third base on a Gregory Polanco single to center, and Polanco stole second in the next at bat, but both runners were stranded at the end of a 16-pitch frame that left Espinos at just 40 pitches total after four scoreless.
A 13-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth ended Espino’s outing...
Paolo Espino’s Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 Ks, 53 P, 39 S, 8/2 GO/FO.
Nationals starters have a combined 0.75 ERA over the last 7 games.#NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/VO8o41MM0t— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 16, 2021
De Jong vs D.C.: Chase De Jong, 27, is a 2012 2nd Round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays, who was traded to the LA Dodgers in 2015, then dealt to the Seattle Mariners in 2017, before yet another trade, to the Minnesota Twins, in 2018. He signed with the Houston Astros last year, in August of 2020, then signed a free agent deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates this past winter.
De Jong has pitched in the majors for the Mariners, Twins, Astros, and Pirates, and heading into tonight’s start, the right-hander had a 4.80 ERA, seven walks, 12 Ks, and .246/.328/.526 line against in three starts and 15 IP this season.
De Jong worked around a leadoff single in a scoreless first, but Yan Gomes got hold of a high 2-1 fastball from the Pirates’ starter with one out in the second and hit it out to left, sending a towering solo shot into the seats for his 7th of 2021 and a 1-0 #Nationals’ lead early in the series finale.
For the second straight day...— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 16, 2021
Here's a video of Yan Gomes mashing a HR and a convenient link to the @Google All-Star Ballot.#NATITUDE // https://t.co/Q3S2lefCHS pic.twitter.com/57IU8YaANy
Josh Bell took a one-out walk in the Nationals’ half of the fourth, and back-to-back singles by Gomes and Luis García loaded the bases in front of Jordy Mercer, who K’d swinging for out No. 2, before Victor Robles popped out to end the threat. #Basesloadednottheirthing
Chase De Jong’s Line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 71 P, 44 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
Yan Gone: With his grand slam in last night’s win, #basesloadedsometimestheirthing, Yan Gomes had hits in seven of his last nine overall, going 9 for 34 (.265 AVG), with a double, two home runs, and two walks over that stretch.
The first time up today, Gomes made it hits in eight of ten, with three home runs, when he homered on a high fastball from Pirates’ starter Chase De Jong, putting up the first run of the game for either team.
Bullpen Action: Pirates’ left-hander Chasen Shreve was first out of the bullpen for the Bucs, and he worked around a pinch hit single by Andrew Stevenson in a scoreless bottom of the fifth.
Tanner Rainey worked around a one-out walk in a 22-pitch top of the sixth.
Chris Stratton came on for the Pirates in the bottom of the sixth and gave up a leadoff hit by Josh Bell and back-to-back, two-out walks to Luis García and Jordy Mercer, loading them up in front of Victor Robles, who sent an unproductive fly to short right for out No. 2, before a fly to center by Ryan Zimmerman left them loaded. #Basesloadednottheirthing
Good Guys Kyle Schwarber and Josh Bell reminding us why baseball is the best.@kschwarb12 // @JBell_19 pic.twitter.com/9uu4yzWRNl— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 16, 2021
Sam Clay got the seventh for the Nationals, and the left-hander gave up a one-out single to right after an 11-pitch battle with Pirates’ left fielder Ben Gamel, but got a force at second in the next at bat, (but not the 6-3 DP, though Trea Turner came close enough to turning it that the play at first had to be reviewed). With a runner on first and two out, the Nats went to the pen again.
Kyle Finnegan took over against pinch hitter Jacob Stallings and gave up a line drive single to right field on the first pitch he threw, but the righty struck out Colin Moran for out No. 3 of a scoreless seventh. Still 1-0 Nationals.
Righty David Bednar retired two batters before a Juan Soto single extended the Nats’ half of the seventh for Josh Bell, who hit a 97 MPH 1-0 fastball out to right for a two-out, two-run HR that put the Nationals up 3-0. Bell’s 9th.
Kyle Finnegan gave up a one-out double by Ke’Bryan Hayes and a single by Bryan Reynolds as the Pirates got on the board in the eighth, 3-1, so Brad Hand came on for the potential 5-out save and got the first two outs with seven pitches.
Pirates’ righty Richard Rodríguez retired the Nationals in order in a scoreless bottom of the eighth.
Hand returned to the mound looking for outs 3-5 of the five-out save and retired the first two Pirates he faced, but a two-out single by Jacob Stallings kept the inning alive for one more at bat, and Erick González singled and extended it for Adam Frazier, who grounded out to second to end it. Ballgame.
Final Score: 3-1 Nationals
Nationals now 30-35