The Nationals managed to prevent a shut-out game versus the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night but wasted a quality start by right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg falling 4-2 in game three of a four game series. In the team’s season-high sixth consecutive loss, the Nats starter threw eight innings and gave up two hits and one run – a homerun to Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez in the second inning – while striking out a season-high twelve batters on 118 pitches and 80 strikes.
There was good news and bad news on the night for Washington in their 4-2 loss. The good news is that Strasburg is starting to feel more comfortable with throwing more pitches over a longer period of time. It was Strasburg’s first double-digit strikeout game of 2013 and the ninth of his career. The bad news is that the offense situation hasn’t really changed. It didn’t help that outfielder Bryce Harper and shortstop Ian Desmond had days off as a precautionary measure by Manager Davey Johnson either.
The night’s batting order was one of the stranger combinations of the season with utility man and the evening’s left fielder Scott Hairston leading off, catcher Wilson Ramos in the six spot, outfielder Denard Span batting seventh, and second baseman Steve Lombardozzi batting eighth.
Pirates left-handed starter Francisco Liriano held onto a no-hit bid up through the third batter of the sixth inning, completely shutting down the Nats offense minus a couple of walks issued to Hairston in the first and outfielder Jayson Werth in the fourth. Anthony Rendon – who made his first career start at shortstop – managed to hit a single with two out hitting in the two hole and made it to scoring position when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman drew a walk batting in his usual third spot, but they would not score.
Pittsburgh stayed up 1-0 up until right-handed reliever Drew Storen entered the game in the ninth. Storen gave up back-to-back hits to start the ninth including a single by outfielder Starling Marte who then scored on a double hit by second baseman Neil Walker. Storen then proceeded to intentionally walk Alvarez with one out, struck out the next batter, and was pulled from the game in favor of left-handed reliever Fernando Abad.
Abad hit the first batter he faced and then gave up a RBI-single to catcher Michael McKenry making it a 4-0 game in favor of the Pirates.
A bit of excitement came for Washington in the bottom of the ninth though despite the Pittsburgh rally. Zimmerman led off the inning against left-handed reliever Justin Wilson with a single and proceeded to score on a homerun hit by Werth but two runs wouldn’t be enough to trump the Pirates’ four.
The Nationals are now 48-53 and are in third place in the National League East and nine games back versus the Atlanta Braves.