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Washington Nationals blow lead in 9th, Pittsburgh Pirates walk off with 4-3 win

Patrick Murphy struggled in the ninth and the Pirates walked off with a win over the Nationals...

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

It was looking like a storybook ending with a Josh Bell home run in his return to PNC Park the difference through eight and a half innings, but the Washington Nationals turned to right-hander Patrick Murphy in his first big league save opportunity and the 26-year-old reliever had all kinds of issues on the mound in the ninth as the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied to tie it up at 3-3 before they walked off with a win on an RBI single by Ke’Bryan Hayes, 4-3 final.

Rogers vs the Pirates: Returning to the mound in the majors for the first time since 2019, lefty Josh Rogers, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019 then was released by the Orioles after only a few starts back, went 5 23 innings against the Mets over which he gave up four hits, three walks, and three earned runs in what ended up a 4-3 win.

“This means everything,” Rogers said after the outing, “... just this whole organization has given me a shot and given me an opportunity to pitch back in the big leagues, it means everything. I’ve worked super-hard over the past two years to get here, I’ve overcome a lot of adversity, and I’m super-excited and grateful for the opportunity to get a start here.”

Rogers got another start tonight, and got off to a good start with two scoreless frames on a total of 23 pitches, but Pirates’ shortstop Cole Tucker doubled to left-center to lead off the home-half of the third, moved up on a sac bunt, and scored on a sac fly to get the Bucs on the board, down 2-1 after three in PNC.

A scoreless, 17-pitch fourth, and 12-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Rogers at 61 total on the night, with the Nats’ 2-1 lead intact.

Given a 3-1 lead to work with after Josh Bell homered to center with one out in the top of the sixth, Rogers gave up back-to-back hits in the first two at bats of the Pirates’ half, but stranded them both at the end of a nine-pitch frame.

Rogers returned to the mound in the seventh at 70 pitches overall, but gave up a solo shot to right by Anthony Alford on a 1-1 fastball that traveled 372 feet into the stands, 3-2 Nats.

A two-out, infield single by old friend Wilmer Difo ended Rogers’ outing...

Josh Rogers’ Line: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 82 P, 55 S, 7/7 GO/FO.

Brault vs the Nationals: Winless in six starts since he was called up in early August, Pirates’ lefty Steven Brault, 29, took the mound tonight coming off a rough outing against the Cubs on the road in Wrigley Field in which he gave up seven hits, four walks, and five earned runs in four innings pitched.

Brault told reporters, as quoted by Pittsburgh Post Gazette writer Mike Persak, that he was dealing with some mechanical issues in the outing.

“It’s just kind of one of those things that I just need to consistently keep up with and work on,” the left-hander explained, “and I wasn’t able to get it done today, and because of that, there’s a lot of arm-side misses, and there was a good amount of not fully getting behind the ball and not getting my [velocity] and stuff like that, so it contributes to a lot of things.”

Tonight, at home in PNC Park, Brault tossed a scoreless first, but a leadoff walk to Carter Kieboom in the top of the second came around to score on a liner to left by Riley Adams when left fielder Anthony Alford dove for and missed the line drive, 1-0. Adams scored on Lane Thomas’s RBI single later in the inning, and it was 2-0 Nationals after one and a half.

Steven Brault’s Line: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 42 P, 23 S, 3/1 GO/FO.

Welcome Back, Bell:

Bullpen Action: Cody Ponce took over for the Pirates in the third and worked around a one-out walk in a 13-pitch frame.

A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth left the right-hander at 23 total after two innings in relief, and he set the side down in order again in the top of the fifth, completing three scoreless on 40 total.

Sam Howard came on for the Pirates in the top of the sixth, and surrendered a one-out shot to left-center by Josh Bell, who hit his 26th of the season in his return to PNC Park.

Howard retired the Nationals in order in the top of the seventh.

Andres Machado took over for the Nationals with a runner on and two out in the bottom of the seventh and got the final out of the inning to keep the visitors up by a run, 3-2.

Nick Mears walked Lane Thomas to start the top of the eighth, and walked Juan Soto with one out, but stranded both runners in a scoreless frame to keep it a one-run game.

Machado returned to the mound in the bottom of the eighth, and worked around a two-out walk for a scoreless frame.

Right Chad Kuhl retired the Nationals in order in the top of the ninth.

Patrick Murphy got the ball in the ninth with the Nats up by a run, and the right-hander (in his first big league save opportunity), and gave up a leadoff single by Anthony Alford. Ben Gamel stepped in next and — a wild pitch by Murphy moved Alford up to second base.

A walk to Gamel put two on with no one out, and another wild pitch moved both runners up. Cole Tucker stepped in with the tying run 90 feet from home plate, but he popped up for out No. 1.

Fill-in skipper Tim Bogar turned to lefty Alberto Baldonado with two on and one out, and the southpaw against pinch hitter Colin Moran, who hit a grounder to short that tied it up at 3-3, and walked off on an RBI single by Ke’Bryan Hayes, 4-3.

Final Score: 4-3 Pirates

Nationals now 58-83