The Pittsburgh Pirates lost their fourth in a row on Saturday night when the bullpen could not close the door on the Nationals comeback as Washington edged the Bucs 4-3.
The Jolly Roger crew is 25-35 on the road this season and are in third-place in the National League Central with a record of 64-59. They are four games behind first-place Milwaukee as the Brewers are on the west coast taking on the L.A. Dodgers.
After Clint Hurdle’s squad claimed three runs in the third off left-hander Gio Gonzalez, Washington remained patient and put up a three-spot in the bottom of the eighth.
The Nationals then sealed the deal in the ninth on Wilson Ramos’ walk-off RBI ground-rule double off southpaw Justin Wilson for the 4-3 win.
Bryce Harper led off the ninth with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch which set the table for Ramos’ drive over Gregory Polanco’s head that bounced into the Washington bullpen.
Back in the eighth, Kevin Frandsen drove in Michael Taylor with a soft line drive to right off lefty Tony Watson. Next, it was former Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche who tied the contest up at 3-3 with a two-run, two-out home run to right field. It was his 18th round-tripper of the season.
Jeff Locke took care of business as he shutout the Nationals over 5 2/3 innings on 93 pitches. The left-hander allowed just four hits, walked two and struck out six.
Locke was helped when Travis Snider made another highlight reel catch in left with a head-first, all-out diving catch to rob Harper of a hit with a man on in the fifth.
After two out in the sixth, Locke gave way to Jared Hughes, who got Ian Desmond to line out to Jordy Mercer at short and then maintained the shutout through the seventh.
The Bucs bats got going against Washington’s Gonzalez with two-out in the third as Starling Marte’s 21st double of the season drove in Gregory Polanco. Russell Martin and Marte came home on Gaby Sanchez’s ground ball single to left.
Gonzalez threw 102 pitches over five innings of work. He gave up three earned runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out seven. Right-hander Craig Stammen kept the Bucs off the scoreboard for the next three innings, then it was left-hander Matt Thornton who closed the door in the ninth to pick up his first win of the season.
It should be noted that Marte was the seventh different player to bat in the cleanup spot for the Pirates this season.
Second baseman Neil Walker did see action as he entered the game defensivley in the seventh. He had been left off the lineup card after playing nine innings on Friday for the first time since lower-back tightness struck him back on Aug 1.
The final contest of the Pirates three-game series with the Nationals is set for Sunday with the first pitch at 5:05 p.m. First-place Washington (68-53) will send right-hander Doug Fister (12-3, 2.34 ERA) to the mound while the Bucs will counter with Edinson Volquez (10-7, 3.67 ERA).
The 30-year-old right-hander will be making his 24th start and 25th appearance of the season on Sunday. Volquez has won six of his last seven decisions, and is 4-0 in five starts this season against teams from the NL East.
The game will be broadcast by ROOT Sports Pittsburgh. The Pirates return to PNC Park on Monday to begin a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves.