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Nationals rally past Pirates late

The Pirates fell short in a game of hot heads and hotter bats Sunday, losing the rubber match to the Nationals 10-7 despite using a record-tying amount of players.

The benches cleared in the bottom of the third when Washington starter AJ Cole threw at Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang behind his head. Earlier in the inning Kang applied a fake tag at third to make Bryce Harper slide and hold him to a triple after an errant throw by Josh Bell in right could have resulted in an inside the park home run. Harper injured his left thumb on the play and was removed from the game.

“I meant no harm during the relay play,” Kang said through interpreter H.K. Kim. “I tried to hold the runner on third base. That’s all I tried to do.”

Cole and Sean Rodriguez were ejected from the game.

“Typically that’s translated as baseball IQ or intuitive thinking,” Rodriguez said on Kang’s fake tag.

Rodriguez later added that he does not take issue with retaliation “below the shoulders,” but agrees that head hunting has been frowned upon for years.

Before the blowup in the third, there were fireworks in the first. The Nationals picked up three stolen bases before Tyler Glasnow recorded his first out, resulting in a three run inning. The final run came on a dropped pop-fly in right after Bell and second baseman Pedro Florimon could not decide who should get it.

Cole brought the Pirates right back in the game by walking the first three batters he faced. RBIs from Kang and Sean Rodriguez made it a one run game, and Kang’s aggressive base running to hold up in between first and second on a Jordy Mercer popout to catcher gave Andrew McCutchen the opportunity he needed to score.

“We’ve been working on it for four years. First time it scored a run for us,” Clint Hurdle said.

Glasnow ended his day going three innings of four run ball, allowing seven hits and walking one. He struck out five.

Glasnow called his stuff as “below average,” relying on his curveball most of the day.

“(My stuff) hasn’t been as sharp,” Glasnow said. “I’m going to get back eventually. I know I will. I’ve been that guy”

Cole was ejected in the third, lasting 2.2 innings. He allowed three runs on one hit, walking three.

After swapping leads and tying the game at 5, Kang gave the Pirates the lead in the seventh with a 415 foot home run to left on a 3-0 count. The two run shot was his 20th of the season.

But the Pirates undoing came in the eighth. Felipe Rivero (1-5) was tagged for a two run Jayson Werth pinch-hit tater to tie the game before eventually being chased on a Chris Heisey go-ahead single. Heisey entered the game as Harper’s defensive replacement.

Rivero was on the hook for five runs in one-third of an inning against his old team.

Mark Melancon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to record his 43rd save of the season. Shawn Kelley got the win to improve to 3-2.

The Pirates will start their final home series Monday against the Cubs. Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73) will take on Kyle Hendricks (15-8, 2.06).

1. McCutchen is riding a 13 game hitting streak. His double in the fifth with career hit number 1,300. He is one of 19 Pirates players to record that many.

2. Rivero has allowed nine earned runs as a Pirate. Five of them came in the eighth inning Sunday.

3. Both teams combined to use 17 pitchers (one shy for the record for a nine inning game) and 45 players (tied for the NL record for a nine inning game). The Pirates used eight pitchers, which is tied for the most in club history.

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