Allowing too many free passes to first base often won’t bring home a victory. The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff combined for eight walks and three hit batters en route to dropping a 5-4 decision to the Washington Nationals on Saturday afternoon at PNC Park.
Jeff Locke got the starting nod for the Pirates and struggled with his control throughout the game. His day ended in the sixth after allowing three hits, four runs, walking three, hitting one batter and striking out three.
“I thought he was in and out of his delivery a little bit,” manager Clint Hurdle said after the game.
“Three walks, a hit batter, four free 90’s at that point and time,” added Hurdle about taking Locke out in the sixth. “With the leadoff guy in, I thought by bringing [Justin] Wilson in that would be our best bet to get out of that inning.”
The game went back and forth despite the Pirates’ pitching struggles.
After a scoreless first and second, the Nationals got on the board first. After a walk to Roger Bernadina, Strasburg hit a grounder to Barmes at short and Barmes made an errant throw to first allowing Bernadina to take third on the play. Ian Desmond hit a sac fly deep to center to bring in Bernadina, putting the Nats up 1-0.
The Pirates answered right back in the bottom half. Barmes singled to right, and Locke laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move over Barmes. Starling Marte crushed a pitch to deep right center for his fourth homer on the season to put the Pirates up 2-1.
Washington tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth. Ryan Zimmerman opened up the inning with a triple to the left field corner, and a sacrifice fly by former Pirate Adam LaRoche brought him in.
Barmes put the Bucs up 4-2 in the bottom half of the frame. Jordy Mercer led off the inning with a single into right, and Barmes homered to the deepest part of the ballpark in left center for his first of the year.
“It’s always nice to help out on the offensive side of things,” Barmes said of his day. “Hit a ball hard and finally got something out of it—a little more than what I’ve got as of late.”
After the fourth, it was all Nationals.
Bryce Harper started off the sixth with a single, and Zimmerman followed that up by drawing a walk from Locke. Justin Wilson came into relieve Locke and walked LaRoche to load the bases. A single by Wilson Ramos on the next pitch brought in Harper and Zimmerman to tie the game at 4-4.
“I think you always want to go further no matter how far you get,” Locke said of his outing. “That’s something we always pride ourselves on—just going until they take the ball away. I think we’re just doing what’s best for the entire team, what’s best for me, what’s best for the other guys.”
The Nats got the go ahead run in the top of the ninth. With Tony Watson on the mound, Zimmerman reached base once again on the afternoon, getting hit by an errant pitch. After a single by LaRoche, Nats’ manager Davey Johnson called for a double steal, and both runners pulled it off successfully.
Tyler Moore belted a deep sacrifice fly in the next at bat to bring in Zimmerman and set the final score at 5-4. Rafael Soriano closed out the ninth for the Nationals, striking out Jordy Mercer to end the game.
“We’ve played very good ball to this point. Every once in awhile you have a game where you’re not in sync, but the walks and the hit batmen today added up,” Hurdle said. “At the end of the day, they just played better than us today. That’s how you look at it and we’ll move on from there.”
The Pirates close out the three-game series with the Nationals on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park. Wandy Rodriguez (2-1, 3.91 ERA) gets the start for the Bucs, facing off against Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 5.34 ERA) with the first pitch scheduled for 1:35 p.m.