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By Chad Carlson
Photo Credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images
After a very frustrating and disappointing defeat at the hands of the Washington Nationals last night, the Pirates began a day-night doubleheader this afternoon for the first of two at 3:35pm.  James McDonald took the hill for the Buccos, facing off against the Nationals’ ancient right hander Livan Hernandez.
McDonald gave the Pirates a strong start, while Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen smashed back-to-back homeruns in the eighth to lead the Pirates to a 5-3 over the Nationals.
The Buccos jumped out in front of Livan Hernandez early this afternoon.  After a leadoff broken-bat single, Alex Presley stole second base to put himself into scoring position for Jones.  G.I. Jones took advantage of that by smacking a single down the line past first base to give the Pirates an early 1-0 lead.  After McCutchen hammered a double, leaving Jones at third base, Neil Walker slapped a sacrifice fly to right, giving the Bucs a 2-0 advantage.
The Nationals answered in the second inning with a run of their own.  Three consecutive singles by Michael Morse, Danny Espinosa and Ivan Rodriguez got them on the board with two on base and only one out.  McDonald cleaned things up quickly from there, however.  Espinosa was picked off at third, and then Ian Desmond struck out looking to end the threat and the inning. 
Both teams squandered a number of opportunities throughout the next few innings, including the Nationals’ fifth frame.  After loading the bases with only one out, the Nats left them loaded after Ryan Zimmerman and Laynce Nix were unable to push any runs across the plate.  The Buccos still held the 2-1 advantage entering the six inning.
The Nationals tied things up in the seventh inning on a solo homerun by Rick Ankiel to deep right center off McDonald.  Jose Veras relieved McDonald, and, after pitching his way into more trouble later in the inning, was able to get Jayson Werth to fly out into a double play to end the inning.
The game didn’t remain tied for long.  Garrett Jones belted a 2-2 pitch over the center field fence in the eighth, giving the Buccos a 3-2 lead.  Jones had three hits on the day, along with two RBI’s.  Not to be outdone, Andrew McCutchen hammered a homerun to deep left to give the Bucs a 4-2 lead.  Both homeruns came off of former Pirate Sean Burnett.  Cutch had two hits on the day, raising his season batting average to .283.
After Veras battled his way through a scoreless eighth inning, Joel Hanrahan brought down the hammer for his 24th save in as many chances, sitting the Nats down to close out the game. Despite giving up an RBI single to Werth, Hanrahan was able to record the final out of the ballgame, securing the win for the Bucs.
This was a big response from the Pirates this afternoon in the first game of the doubleheader.  After a difficult loss last night in which the Pirates managed only one run, the offense responded today with five runs on ten hits, including two homeruns.  It was refreshing to see there is still some pop in the bats of Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen, while Alex Presley added three hits of his own.
Unfortunately, Chase d’Arnaud and Neil Walker were both held hitless this afternoon.  For Walker, it was his first start after sitting out the previous two games.  While he did record an RBI today, his averaged has dipped to .246 for the season.
Still, the victory pushed the Pirates back to two games over the .500 mark, and gives the club some momentum heading into the second game of the doubleheader.
Brad Lincoln was called up today and will make his first start of the season for the Buccos in game two.  The game is set to start at 7:05pm.
Record Vs. Nationals: 3-3
Record Vs. N.L. East: 9-13
Record On The Road: 23-20
Overall Record: 42-40
And…
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!