Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals are at beautiful PNC Park for a weekend series with the Pirates.
The Nationals are in town for a weekend series that won't be a piece of cake. The Pirates are playing very good baseball, and tonight they'll send veteran A.J. Burnett (your current NL strikeouts leader) to the mound. The Nats will counter with a lineup bolstered by the return of Ryan Zimmerman though lacking Jayson Werth (who will likely miss several days after re-tweaking his hamstring last night in Atlanta).
Interesting lineup from Davey Johnson, with Ian Desmond bumped up to Werth's 2-spot, and with Bryce Harper in left field while Tyler Moore is in right field. My hunch on that unorthodox outfield alignment: Left field is much more spacious here than right field is, so Davey probably prefers to have Harper patrolling all that ground.
Ross Detwiler gets the start for the Nationals, looking to do what Jordan Zimmermann and Dan Haren did so effectively the last two nights. Updates to come...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Where: PNC Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Clear, 68 degrees, Wind 12 mph in from LF
CF Denard Span
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Tyler Moore
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP Ross Detwiler
LF Starling Marte
2B Jordy Mercer
CF Andrew McCutchen
1B Gaby Sanchez
C Russell Martin
RF Brandon Inge
3B Pedro Alvarez
SS Clint Barmes
RHP A.J. Burnett
HP James Hoye
1B John Hirschbeck (cc)
2B Bob Davidson
3B Jim Reynolds
7:08 p.m. — And we are underway on an absolutely gorgeous Friday night in Pittsburgh. 72 degrees as A.J. Burnett fires strike one to Denard Span.
7:16 p.m. — Burnett has been one of the biggest surprises of the season's first month, and the Nationals just found out why. He struck out both Span and Desmond to add to his NL-leading total, then got Bryce Harper to ground out to second. One bright spot: Span really worked the at-bat, fouling a couple of pitches off his foot and hanging in there until Burnett struck him out on the eighth pitch. Ross Detwiler takes the mound for the bottom of the first.
7:25 p.m. — This just in: Andrew McCutchen is good. Really good. He crushed a 2-1 fastball from Detwiler into the second deck in left field, putting the Pirates up 1-0 after one. No shame on Detwiler's part in giving up a homer to McCutchen, who seems to terrorize the Nats every time he faces them. Fortunately, nobody was on base for this one.
7:35 p.m. — Ryan Zimmerman's first at-bat back from the DL is ... a strikeout. But in better news, Adam LaRoche roped an opposite-field single in the top of the second. He certainly has seemed to be looking to go the other way for the last few days, definitely since his pow-wow with Chipper Jones. Still 1-0 Pirates as we move to the bottom of the second. Oh, for those asking, McCutchen's career numbers in 24 games against the Nats: .448 AVG, 11 HR, 22 RBI, .520 OBP, .943 SLG, 1.463 OPS. Mercy.
7:50 p.m. — Three innings in, and the Nats really haven't made solid contact off Burnett. LaRoche's opposite-field single was probably the best. Kurt Suzuki was credited with a single on a slow roller to third, with Pedro Alvarez double-clutching before he got the throw off. Otherwise, it's been weak grounders or strikeouts so far. Still 1-0 Pittsburgh heading to the bottom of the third.
7:56 p.m. — Good stuff from Detwiler since the McCutchen homer in the first. He's retired seven straight, two on strikeouts, and is through three innings on 40 pitches. We'll see if the Nats lineup can start getting something going against Burnett in the fourth.
8:06 p.m. — And the Nats do get something going against Burnett in the fourth, with LaRoche drawing a two-out walk, Tyler Moore lining a base hit to center and Danny Espinosa delivering a clutch RBI single to right, scoring the ever-speedy LaRoche from second. Moore was thrown out at third on the play, but the Nats will trade that for the run. It's 1-1 in the middle of the fourth.
8:16 p.m. — Time to update that McCutchen stat: He's now hitting .455 in his career against the Nats after singling up the middle to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Detwiler got himself into a bit of a jam when he issued a one-out walk to Russell Martin. But he humped out and struck out both Brandon Inge and Pedro Alvarez to get out of it and end the fourth inning with this game tied 1-1.
8:36 p.m. — Um, somebody named Jordy Mercer just clobbered a two-run homer off Detwiler in the bottom of the fifth. He was just called up from Class AAA today when second baseman Neil Walker was placed on the DL. The real problem in the inning was LaRoche not being able to get the ball out of his glove when Detwiler had Marte picked off. That allowed the inning to continue and set Mercer up for his big blast. Oh, by the way, McCutchen singled again. He's now hitting .461 in his career against the Nats and is 3-for-3 tonight. Sweet. Fancy. Moses. Nats now trail 3-1 after five.
8:43 p.m. — Harper finally snapped his 0-for-14 skid, beating out an infield single. But he was immediately erased on a pickoff. Not good. Even worse: Zimmerman has struck out in all three at-bats tonight.
8:56 p.m. — Hmm, Detwiler issues a leadoff walk in the sixth, and out comes Capt. Hook to take the ball from him. That was a surprisingly quick hook from Davey, but he must have seen something out of Detwiler that concerned him. His final line: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 84 pitches. Craig Stammen entered and got three quick outs, two of them on grounders to third. Those were the first defensive chances Zimmerman has had tonight and he executed both of them well. The first was a tough play and he side-armed the throw to first. The second was a routine play. Still 3-1 Pirates as we go to the seventh.
9:04 p.m. — Nothing happening in the top of the seventh for the Nats lineup, which has managed only one run on five hits while striking out nine times against Burnett, who has cruised. They're down to their last six outs now, still trailing 3-1.
9:16 p.m. — Whoa, the Nats actually retired McCutchen! Most shocking development of the night. We move to the eighth, still 3-1.
9:30 p.m. — Big chance for Harper in the top of the eighth, with two on and two out. Clint Hurdle surprisingly stuck with right-hander Mark Melancon instead of summoning one of his two lefties in the bullpen, but that move worked. Melancon struck out Harper on a 1-2 fastball, ending the rally. So the Nats are down to their last three outs, still trailing 3-1.
9:42 p.m. — Last chance upcoming. It'll be Zimmerman, LaRoche and Moore against Jason Grilli.
9:53 p.m. — It's over. The Nats lose another frustrating one, this time 3-1 to the Bucs. They fall back to .500 (15-15).