Vazquez escapes bases-loaded jam; Pirates beat Nationals to win series | TribLIVE.com
Pirates/MLB

Vazquez escapes bases-loaded jam; Pirates beat Nationals to win series

Associated Press
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Associated Press
Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Felipe Vazquez (73) celebrates with catcher Francisco Cervelli, left, after a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Washington.
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Associated Press
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer delivers a pitch during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Washington.
1023574_web1_1023574-5009b6a70ca74c3cb9dadf6e2a9a8acf
Associated Press
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Washington.

WASHINGTON — Faced with the based loaded, two outs and one of baseball’s hottest hitters at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, there was nowhere Felipe Vázquez wanted to be more than on the mound at Nationals Park.

The Pittsburgh Pirates relief ace then coaxed a fly ball from Anthony Rendon to cap a two-inning outing Sunday and preserve a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals.

“I like that excitement,” Vázquez said. “He’s a good hitter right now, and he’s been hitting the ball everywhere. For me, that’s a challenge. I take every hitter like him as a challenge.”

Rookie Jason Martin’s ground-rule double in the ninth inning off Wander Suero (1-1) scored Josh Bell to provide the go-ahead run for the Pirates.

“I was trying to locate it a little differently,” Suero said of the curveball Martin hit. “I was trying to get it on the dirt for him to chase it. Unfortunately, I hung it just a little bit, and he made contact.”

That set up Vázquez (1-0), who pitched a scoreless eighth, to finish the victory. He loaded the bases on a single, a walk and Adam Eaton’s bunt single with one out, but struck out Howie Kendrick.

That brought up Rendon, who is hitting .400 with six homers in 55 at-bats. On the sixth pitch, Rendon lofted a fly to center to end the game and secure the Pirates’ first series victory at Nationals Park since 2013.

“I made my own jam, so I had to get out and I worked my way through,” Vázquez said.

Vázquez, who pitched parts of two seasons for Washington before he was dealt to the Pirates in 2016, blossomed into an All-Star last year. He has yet to allow a run in 8 2/3 innings this season.

“The guy is incredibly talented,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “When you see him at 100 on his 42nd pitch, and basically you saw the velocity trend up throughout the outing.

“Just the focus, that competitive spirit, and you’re going against a guy with a 10-game streak of extra base hits and he got a hit earlier and the bases are loaded. It’s all good stuff, and he loves those situations.”

Nationals starter Max Scherzer allowed three runs and seven hits while working a season-high eight innings. He struck out seven. He gave way to Suero, who walked Bell to lead off the ninth and moved to second on Colin Moran’s grounder.

With two outs, Martin hit a ground-rule double to left for his second major league RBI.

“He got some big outs and then he just couldn’t finish that last pitch,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said.

The inning compounded Washington’s early-season relief woes. The Nationals entered the day with the worst bullpen ERA in the majors and it rose to 7.75.

Pittsburgh starter Jameson Taillon gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings.

Rendon extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games with a single in the sixth.

Trainer’s room

Pirates: OF Gregory Polanco (left shoulder) had two hits and drove in two runs Saturday in his first rehabilitation appearance at Triple-A Indianapolis. … RHP Dovydas Neverauskas (oblique strain) had two strikeouts in a scoreless inning Saturday for Indianapolis. He’s thrown three scoreless innings during three rehab appearances at Indianapolis and Class A Bradenton.

Nationals: Manager Dave Martinez said 1B Matt Adams, who twisted his ankle Saturday while stepping on Pittsburgh RHP Chris Archer’s foot, was available to play Sunday.

Categories: Sports | Pirates
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