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It's been ten days since the 2013 All-Star game and the Nationals are still looking for their first win in the season's second half. Last night we saw them lose their sixth straight game, failing to get any sort of offense going against lefty Francisco Liriano.
If Liriano was trouble, they may have an even tougher time this afternoon against A.J. Burnett. Burnett has been excellent this season at the age of 36, holding a 3.07 ERA through 17 starts. Back in May he held the Nats to one earned run through seven innings and struck out nine.
The Nationals will have Gio Gonzalez (7-3, 2.89) on the mound who's had a pretty good season himself. Gonzalez also has a win against the Pirates this season, throwing six innings of two-run ball on May 5.
The real question will of course be whether the Nationals can score some runs today, as they have scored more than three runs just twice in their last ten games. They have, however, given Gio solid run support for the most part in his recent starts. Five of Gonzalez' last six outings have seen the Nats score five or more runs, each time taking the win when they hit that mark. Gio has also recorded quality starts in all nine of his outings since the month of May.
Updates to come...
PITTSBURGH PIRATES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 12:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500), XM 869
Weather: Partly cloudy, 83 degrees, Wind 14 mph out to CF
NATIONALS (48-53)12:28 p.m. -- Gio got the day started with a scoreless inning despite allowing two Pirates to reach base. Mercer smacked a single to left field with one out and Martin walked with two outs, but Alvarez then went down swinging at a high fastball to end the frame. Gonzalez needed 23 pitches (15 strikes) to get through one.
LF Bryce Harper
2B Steve Lombardozzi
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Jayson Werth
SS Ian Desmond
CF Denard Span
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP Gio Gonzalez
LF Starling Marte
2B Jordy Mercer
CF Andrew McCutchen
C Russell Martin
3B Pedro Alvarez
1B Gaby Sanchez
RF Josh Harrison
SS Clint Barmes
RHP A.J. Burnett
HP Mike Winters (cc)
1B Laz Diaz
2B Tim Timmons
3B Mike Estabrook
1:08 p.m. -- The Nats got a nice head start offensively in the first, scoring four runs with a bit of thanks to the Pirates' defense. Pittsburgh committed three errors in total, letting in three unearned runs. The first came after a baserunning mistake by Harper that got him caught in a pickle between second and third base. But the throw to Alvarez at third got past him and allowed Harper to come home for the first run. Zimmerman then singled to bring home Lombardozzi and both Zim and Desmond later scored on a single by Span. On Span's hit Sanchez was off on his throw to second which brought home both runs. Burnett threw 26 pitches in the first, 4-0 Nats.
1:21 p.m. -- Gonzalez again let two Pirates reach base in the second, but came away unscathed, this time thanks to a terrific play by Lombardozzi at second. After allowing back-to-back singles to Sanchez and Harrison, Gio struck out the next two batters to bring Marte up with two outs. Marte slapped a hard grounder up the middle that was snagged by a diving Lombo. He then flipped the ball to second for the forceout to end the frame. Gio at 47 pitches already.
1:29 p.m. -- The score remains at 4-0 after the end of the second inning after Zimmerman gets on with a two-out single, but goes nowhere from there. Harper grounded out to lead off, Lombo struck out, and LaRoche flew out to deep left field to end the frame. Burnett needed 15 pitches this time around, he has 41 total in the game.
1:41 p.m. -- Gonzalez once again keeps the Pirates scoreless but needed a ton of pitches to do it. He's through three now with 67 pitches already and would have been out there longer if it weren't for a spectacular diving catch by Lombardozzi. Lombo caught a line drive by Alvarez and then tagged second for the inning-ending double play. Gonzalez may be setting up for an early exit simply based on his pitch count, which does not bode well for the Nats with a doubleheader up next on Friday.
1:44 p.m. -- The third inning was a quick one for the Nats' lineup as Werth, Desmond, and Span all grounded out. Burnett threw only seven pitches and is at 48 on the day.
1:54 p.m. -- The shutout is no longer as the Pirates got one run on the board in the top of the fourth. Sanchez reached on an infield single start things off, and was then brought home on fielder's choice groundout by Burnett with one out. Gonzalez is through four with an ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 7 SO, and 82 pitches thrown.
1:58 p.m. -- The bottom of the fourth was another short one for the Nats on offense as Suzuki, Gio, and Harper each were retired with groundouts. Burnett only needed four pitches this time and has 52 through four innings of work. After a long first inning, he has settled in nicely to potentially work deep into this game.
2:08 p.m. -- The Pirates got a man all the way to third with just one out in the top of the fifth before Gio struck out Martin and Alvarez to get out of the jam. That's just the way today has gone for Gonzalez, he gets in trouble and finds a way out of it. He's thrown 98 pitches and there is no movement in the Nats' bullpen, but can't imagine we see much more of him today.
2:25 p.m. -- After loading the bases with no outs, the Nats came away with nothing in the bottom of the fifth, unless you count the ejection of Davey Johnson. Werth struck out before Desmond came up to work a full count. After watching a called strike three, Desmond argued with home plate ump Mike Winters before Johnson rushed out to back him up. As soon as Johnson reached the batters box he was gone. Span then grounded out to end the inning and it's still a 4-1 game. Burnett is at 75 pitches through five.
2:43 p.m. -- This game got a bit more interesting in the top of the sixth as Gonzalez was left in perhaps a little too long. He allowed a leadoff single to Marte and then a two-run shot to left field to Harrison. He was replaced by Craig Stammen shortly thereafter. The Pirates are now down just one run, 4-3, as we head to the bottom of the sixth.
2:50 p.m. -- The Nats got a man on in the bottom of the sixth, but came away with a zero once again. Harper doubled with two outs but Lombardozzi flew out to center to end the inning. The Nats haven't scored since the first inning and might need to get something else going to seal a victory today.
3:00 p.m. -- Both teams are now without their managers as Clint Hurdle got tossed for arguing the third out in the top of the seventh. With two outs Alvarez singled but took a slight turn to second after tagging the base. Desmond threw the ball to LaRoche who tagged him for the out and Hurdle didn't agree. Anyways, on to the bottom of the seventh we go.
3:12 p.m. -- Two runners on for the Nats in the bottom of the seventh, but no runs to show for it. LaRoche hit a one-out single to right field and Desmond walked with two outs to join him. Tracy then pinch-hit for Stammen, but grounded out to end the inning. Tyler Clipaprd is your new pitcher to start the eighth inning.
3:17 p.m. -- Clippard preserved the 4-3 lead for Washington after setting down Travis Snider, McCutchen, and Garrett Jones on six pitches. Suzuki will lead off for the Nats in the bottom of the eighth.
3:42 p.m. -- You wanted insurance runs? You got 'em. The Nats added three more in the bottom of the eighth, the first on a double by Lombardozzi and the last two on a triple by LaRoche. That's LaRoche's third triple of the season. Rafael Soriano takes over in the ninth with the score at 7-3.
4:08 p.m. -- Um, yea, that lead the Nats had? It's gone. Soriano came in and allowed two runs on singles by Mercer and Martin. Krol then came with two men on and one out. He walked Alvarez and later allowed a single up the middle to Harrison to tie the game at 7-7. On to the bottom of the ninth.