Pirates score plenty, top Nationals in season finale
WASHINGTON — Fourteen players who were not on the Pirates' opening-day roster got into Sunday's season finale, an 11-8 victory against the Washington Nationals.
That was the case throughout September as management tried to get a glimpse of the future by giving ample playing time to prospects.
The front office believes that strategy will better prepare Pirates for 2018 and beyond.
“Across the board, I think we did a very professional job, a responsible job, at getting looks and helping us in our decision-making process moving forward,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen isn't so sure.
“I don't know, man,” McCutchen said. “It's a tough question to answer, considering we've had a lot of movement this year. If you look at our record, I don't know if we're in a better place or not.”
The Pirates finished 75-87, which was three fewer wins than last season, and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. They went 12-16 in September and 33-40 after the All-Star break.
Then again, it wasn't as if the Pirates went into the season expecting to rely so heavily on newcomers.
Francisco Cervelli, Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco spent long stretches on the disabled list. Starling Marte served an 80-game suspension. Third baseman Jung Ho Kang never made it out of South Korea after his third drunk-driving conviction.
Sunday's game lasted 4 hours, 22 minutes and was the longest nine-inning game in the histories of both teams. The Pirates used a team-record nine pitchers.
“It was a wild ride,” said left-hander Steven Brault, who pitched the first two innings. “It's one of those things where, if this still holds 20 years from now, my brothers are going to be like, ‘Hey, you've still got that record for longest game.' ”
In the first inning, the kids came through against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez (15-9). The Pirates sent nine men to the plate, and two of the outs were made by veterans McCutchen and Marte.
With two outs and the bases loaded, three straight rookies produced runs. Jared Luplow was hit by a pitch, Max Moroff pulled a three-run triple down the third base line and Jacob Stallings stroked an RBI single to give the Pirates a 5-0 lead.
The Nationals started their usual lineup, although many of the regulars — Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Matt Weiters — were subbed out in the middle innings.
In the first, Rendon clubbed a three-run homer. The Nationals got another run in the third and knocked Brault out of the game. Rookie reliever Angel Sanchez escaped a bases-loaded, none-out jam.
In the fifth, McCutchen doubled — possibly his final hit with the Pirates, if the team either doesn't pick up his option or trades him this winter. David Freese's RBI single made it 6-4.
Stallings hit a run-scoring double in the sixth, giving him his first three-hit game and his first multi-RBI game.