After a successful road trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates returned to PNC Park for their final home stand of the 2016 regular season, beginning tonight with the first of a three game series against the Washington Nationals. Tonight, these two teams traded punches back and forth and exchanged runs throughout, and the Pirates came up with a pair of huge hits, one in the ninth and one in the eleventh, to beat the Nationals 6-5.
Neither starter was at his best tonight. Jameson Taillon lasted five innings, giving up three runs on six hits, while Gio Gonzalez pitched five innings for Washington, giving up three runs on five hits and three walks. It was a long game, with a lot of substitutions and pitching changes. Both teams had plenty of opportunities to score runs, and while both squandered a lot of chances and left numerous runners on base, the Nationals did just enough to come away with the victory.
Gregory Polanco left the game in the top of the first inning after he ran face first into the outfield wall trying to track down a Bryce Harper fly ball. The Nats’ right fielder ended up on second base with a double and the Bucs’ left fielder ended up with a bruised face.
The Nationals took the lead on Taillon and the Pirates in the second inning. Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI double scored Stephen Drew for the game’s first run. Danny Espinosa crushed a two run homerun to deep center field, scoring a pair and giving the Nationals a 3-0 lead.
Taillon helped his own cause with an RBI single in the bottom of the second, scoring Alen Hanson to cut into the lead. Adam Frazier’s RBI single scored David Freese and brought the Bucs within a run at 3-2. They tied the game in the third inning. After Andrew McCutchen tripled to lead off, he scored on a groundout by Jung-ho Kang to make it even after three.
Washington scored a pair of runs in the sixth to re-take the lead. Wilson Ramos hit a solo homerun to right center field to break the tie, and later in the inning, Jayson Werth walked with the bases loaded, scoring Zimmerman. The Nats led 5-3.
The Bucs responded in the bottom of the sixth with a run. Frazier’s sacrifice fly scored Hanson to make it 5-4, but with two runners on and two outs later in the inning, Francisco Cervelli struck out to end the threat.
Mark Melancon came in to face his former team for the first time since he was traded earlier this season, but fortunately for Pittsburgh, he blew his first save since joining the Nationals. Sean Rodriguez’s RBI double scored Pedro Florimon to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Pittsburgh won the game in the bottom of the 11th inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Jacob Stallings, the last remaining available position player on the Pirates’ bench, playing in just his third Major League game, smacked a base hit into left field for his second career hit and delivered the game-winning run.
This was quite a baseball game tonight at PNC Park. The Pirates battled back each time the Nationals took the lead, but they never led themselves until the end of the game. They showed a lot of heart tonight, with the season winding down and their playoff chances extremely slim. This was a very inspiring win for this team, one that can hopefully lead to continued good baseball for the next week.
The Pirates and Nationals will meet back up for the second game of this series tomorrow night at PNC Park. Joe Ross will start for Washington against Ivan Nova for Pittsburgh. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm.
Record vs. Nationals: 2-2
Record vs. N.L. East: 14-17
Record at Home: 37-38
Overall Record: 77-76
Let’s Go Bucs!