The Times West Virginian

Pirates

May 5, 2013

Nationals get 3 sac flies, beat Pirates, 5-4

PITTSBURGH — Stephen Strasburg struck out eight in seven innings and the Washington Nationals won a game he started for the first time since opening day by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4 Saturday.

Tyler Moore hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth inning off Tony Watson (1-1) Wilson Ramos’ RBI single in the sixth tied the game at 4 after Pittsburgh built a two-run lead.

A day after striking out four times upon being activated from the disabled list, Zimmerman scored three runs.

Starling Marte and Clint Barmes each hit two-run homers for the Pirates.

Strasburg remained winless since his first start, though. He allowed four runs and five hits.

Tyler Clippard (2-1) pitched a scoreless eighth and Rafael Soriano got his 10th save with an unconventional 1-2-3 ninth. Russell Martin was thrown out at second trying to extend a leadoff single, then Soriano got Pedro Alvarez to pop out and Jordy Mercer to strike out to end the game.

Veteran Washington manager Davey Johnson called a rare team meeting before the game in an effort to help kick start a lethargic offense that had scored three or fewer runs 14 times in its first 20 games.

Johnson’s primary message: Relax. For the first time since the franchise moved from Montreal eight years ago, the Nationals entered the season with high expectations. The NL East champions entered the game with 239 strikeouts by their batters, second-most in the NL, and whiffed 14 times during Friday’s series-opening loss.

In an effort to loosen the team up, the 70-year-old Johnson even took batting practice — hacking about 40 swings — for what he said was the first time in 25 years.

The results were mixed most of the afternoon: The Nationals scored three runs for the first time in seven games, but had only six hits.

Pirates starter Jeff Locke allowed three of those during his five-plus innings, allowing four runs, three earned, with three walks and three strikeouts.

Ian Desmond’s sacrifice fly in the third snapped a 15-plus scoreless inning streak by Locke. Adam LaRoche drove in Zimmerman with a fly to right an inning later after Zimmerman led off the inning with a triple.

Marte’s homer was his fourth of the season. Barmes’ was his first of the season.

Notes: Washington OF Denard Span was not in the lineup a day after fouling a ball off his right foot. The Nationals are without OF Jayson Werth (right hamstring) for the series. ... Pittsburgh had a four-game home winning streak snapped. ... All of the Pirates’ seven runs in the series have come by way of home run. ... Pittsburgh CF Andrew McCutchen extended his hitting streak against the Nationals to 17 games. ... A pair of left-handers start in the series finale Sunday. The last  time Pittsburgh’s Wandy Rodriguez (2-1, 3.91) faced Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 3.54), it was a 1-0 pitcher’s duel won by Gonzalez on April 17, 2012.

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