The Pittsburgh Pirates withstood a late rally by Washington in the ninth inning on Wednesday night to defeat the Nationals 4-2, taking the third game of their four-game series and extending their current win streak to four in a row.
Francisco Liriano won the pitchers’ duel with Washington’s Stephen Strasburg and improved his record to 10-4, allowing just two hits to go along with three walks and eight strikeouts on 110 pitches over 7 2/3 innings.
The lefthander started the game with a walk and then retired 11 in a row before issuing another walk. He did not allow a hit until Anthony Rendon reached on an infield single off third baseman Pedro Alvarez’ glove with two outs in the sixth.
Lefthander Justin Wilson answered the call from the bullpen and finished the eighth before giving up a two-run homer to Jayson Werth in the bottom of the ninth. Then it was time for righthander Mark Melancon to pick up his third save of the season with 10 pitches, striking out one and giving up just one hit to bring home the victory.
Pittsburgh (60-39) has recorded a 28-21 record on the road, including wins in 11 of its last 15 contests away from PNC Park. The Bucs are now back at their season peak of 21 games over .500 with the victory on Wednesday evening in D.C. The Nationals, on the other hand, fell to 0-6 since the All-Star break and have lost 11 of their last 13 games.
Strasburg saw his record dip to 5-8 this season, despite striking out 12 and not walking anyone on 118 pitches in eight innings. The righthander gave up just one run and two hits, all coming in the second inning at Nationals Park. Also, it was Strasburg’s ninth career game with 10 or more strikeouts and his first one this season.
Alvarez blasted a 96-mph fastball over the fence in right-center field to lead off the top of the second inning. The third baseman’s 26th homer of the season gave the Pirates an early 1-0 lead in the game. Alvarez is tied with Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez for the most home runs in the National League.
In the top of the ninth, the Pirates pushed three insurance runs across the plate against Nats relievers Drew Storen and Fernando Abad. With nobody out in the top of the ninth, Neil Walker doubled to center field to drive home Starling Marte, making the score 2-0 in favor of the Bucs. With two out, Michael McKenry singled to left field to drive in Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez to stake the Pirates to a 4-0 lead.
Werth got Washington on the scoreboard in the bottom of the ninth when he drove a home run to right-center field to score Ryan Zimmerman. The Bucs lead was cut in half to 4-2 before Melancon came in to close down the rally.
The fourth and final game of the series will be at 12:35 p.m. Thursday. The Nats (48-53) will send lefthander Gio Gonzalez (7-3, 2.89 ERA) to the hill while the Pirates will go with righthander A.J. Burnett (4-7, 3.07 ERA).
Burnett will be making his 18th start of the season on Thursday; he has allowed two earned runs or less in all but one of his eight starts on the road. The game will be broadcast on ROOT Sports Pittsburgh.
From The Clipboard: Russell Martin threw out his major league leading 20th baserunner on Tuesday night. It is also the fifth time in Martin’s career he has thrown out at least 20 baserunners in a season….Alvarez has hit safely in 25 of his last 31 games….Clint Barmes played in his 1,000th career game on Monday night….Clint Hurdle’s crew are 37-23 in games decided by two runs or less this season.