Pirates fall flat against Nationals
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013, 4:57 p.m.
For a while Sunday, the Pirates were poised to rout the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals' best hitter was ejected before the game was five minutes old, and their starting pitcher was on the ropes in the first inning. The Pirates needed one hit to break it open.
It never happened.
The Nationals overcame a rocky start and used homers by Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore to cruise past the Pirates, 6-2.
In the first inning, the Nationals seemed on the verge of imploding. Bryce Harper was ejected by third base umpire John Hirschbeck for grousing after a checked-swing strikeout. It was the first ejection this year for Harper and second of his career.
In the bottom of the inning, the Pirates' offense got off to a great start.
Starling Marte homered on the first pitch thrown by Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez (3-2). It was a rocket, and Marte went into his trot the instant the ball left his bat.
“I knew I got it,” Marte said.
Jordy Mercer doubled off the center-field wall. Andrew McCutchen reached on a throwing error. Gaby Sanchez walked on four pitches.
Bases loaded, nobody out, one run in and the crowd of 24,186 was buzzing.
“We had a chance to push (Gonzalez) out the door, or at least create some separation,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
And then ... pffffffffft.
Gonzalez had thrown a total of five pitches to Marte, Mercer and McCutchen. Catcher Wilson Ramos saw what was up and changed strategy.
“They were hacking,” Gonzalez said. “(Ramos) saw them being aggressive, and he slowed it down. That's what kept me in the game.”
Russell Martin struck out swinging. Michael McKenry went down looking. Brandon Inge grounded out.
“It's frustrating, but you've got to move on,” Mercer said.
The turnaround buoyed the Nationals.
“After I got those three outs, you see the dugout get lit up with joy and excitement,” Gonzalez said. “You could see it felt like the momentum shifted.”
The Nationals tied it in the second against Wandy Rodriguez (2-2). Ryan Zimmerman walked, went to third on Adam LaRoche's double and scored on Espinosa's sacrifice fly to deep center.
Zimmerman began the fourth with a single to right field. He went to second on a balk and scored on Espinosa's two-out homer.
“It was a curveball right down the middle,” Rodriguez said. “I tried to go in, but I missed my spot.”
Hurdle said Rodriguez made “an in-game adjustment” after the homer. Rodriguez worked six innings and threw a whopping 117 pitches, facing a lot of deep counts but only walking one.
“His two-strike put-away pitch is not where we want it to be,” Hurdle said. “We have to remind him of things from time to time. He knows how to pitch. He needs to use all three pitches from the start.”
Rodriguez, however, said he pitched the same throughout the game and used his entire arsenal.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez settled in. After Mercer's double, Gonzalez gave up just one hit — a well-struck single by Rodriguez in the second inning. Gonzalez retired seven in a row from the third until the sixth, when Sanchez reached on an infield single that deflected off Gonzalez's glove.
Martin followed with an RBI double. The relay throw beat Sanchez to the plate, but Ramos didn't make the catch on the hop.
The Nationals put the game away with three runs in the eighth off Bryan Morris. Roger Bernadina — who replaced Harper after the ejection — singled. LaRoche was intentionally walked, and Moore hit his first homer of the season.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Biertempfel: Kendall’s book offers inside look at life in majors
- Pirates notebook: Catcher Stewart activated; Sanchez demoted
- Pair of Braun homers spells defeat for Pirates
- Davis embraces new opportunity with Pirates
- Pirates minor league notebook: Mt. Lebanon grad keeping steady approach
- Bucco Blog: Travis Sawchik
- Stats Corner: Pirates’ Volquez cruising through innings
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- Pirates notebook: Rivalry with Reds resumes
- Alvarez struggles as Pirates fall short against Brewers
- Bad weather halts homer-filled game between Reds, Pirates