Andrew McCutchen had Jordan Zimmermann’s number tonight, clubbing a pair of monster home runs off the Nationals’ #3 starter in tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. McCutchen would also flash the leather in the field, stealing at least a double from Adam LaRoche eight feet up the center field wall in the fifth inning, preserving a coalescing no-hitter for Pirates’ starter James McDonald.
McDonald was fairly stellar for the evening as well, sending 11 Nationals down on strikes in 5 and 2/3 innings. He had a perfect game going through four before walking Bryce Harper in the fifth, and then losing his no-hit bid in the sixth. The Nationals would stage a rally in the sixth that would knock McDonald out after four hits scored three runs.
Twice more the Nationals would attempt to rally, each time putting multiple men aboard with 1 out, and in both cases the Nationals couldn’t get the base hits they needed to push over the top. With a 7-0 Atlanta victory over Miami, the Nationals fell to second place in the NL East, a half game behind the Braves.
The team struggled at the plate tonight, and James McDonald’s off-speed mix of pitches were absolutely devastating to the nominally hot offense, often freezing them with the fastball when they were expecting the breaking stuff, and vice versa.
The Nats now take on the also-hot Orioles in the first Battle of the Beltways that will live up to the name. Saturday’s game is “Script Cap” night, with the first 30,000 fans receiving a Script Nationals logo, and Sunday nets kids 12 & under a cool t-shirt if they come in through the center field gate.