Pirates' charitable mood sets up 5-4 loss to Nationals

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Ryan Zimmerman was used to reaching base by the time the ninth inning arrived.

A triple and two walks had put the Washington Nationals third baseman on base in his three previous plate appearances. He would reach again in the ninth, the last of many Nationals to take a base due to a Pirates mistake, and score, sendingWashington to a 5-4 win Saturday afternoon at PNC Park.

The Pirates greased the wheels for 11 Nationals batters to reach base -- six walks, three hit batsmen and two errors. The Nationals won despite stranding 11 runners and going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

"Every once in a while. you have a game when you're not in sync," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The walks and the hit batsmen today, all those free 90s added up."

Scouting report

  • Game:

    Pirates vs. Nationals, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park, Pittsburgh.

  • TV, Radio:

    Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).

  • Probables:

    LHP Wandy Rodriguez (2-1, 3.91) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 5.34).

  • Key matchup:

    Rodriguez vs. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, who are a combined 14 for 42 (.333) against him.

  • Hidden stat:

    Gonzalez has allowed at least five runs in three of his six starts this season.

Tony Watson hit Zimmerman in the ninth with the score tied, 4-4. Zimmerman took second on Adam LaRoche's single.

Then Nationals manager Davey Johnson called for Zimmerman, on the disabled list because of a strained left hamstring until Friday, and LaRoche to attempt a double steal. They reached second and third without a throw. Tyler Moore, who struck out with the bases loaded to end the seventh, scored the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.

"We know who has what times [to the plate], what guys are slow and what guys are fast and what guys give a guy like me an actual chance to steal a base," Zimmerman said. "Third is easier to steal than second for a lot of us, especially a guy who doesn't steal a lot of bases, because they won't look you back a lot of times. When you're looking at a pitcher that takes 1.8-2.0 seconds to get the ball to the plate, I should be able to steal off him."

Zimmerman and LaRoche, the Nationals' No. 4 and 5 hitters, reached base a combined eight times: five walks, two hits and a hit-by-pitch.

Watson (1-1) took the loss, allowing one run on two hits and two hit batters in 12/3 innings.

Hurdle said he preferred not to use closer Jason Grilli in the ninth of a tie game at home to limit Grilli's appearances, and Hurdle wants to limit setup man Mark Melancon's usage to the eighth with a lead for the same reason.

Justin Wilson walked three batters in 12/3 innings and allowed two inherited runners to score and tie the score. Hurdle replaced Jeff Locke with Wilson after only 74 pitches when a Bryce Harper single and a walk to Zimmerman put two on with no outs in the sixth. Wilson then walked LaRoche to load the bases.

"Watching the game, I thought he was in and out of his delivery a little bit," Hurdle said of Locke. "I thought we'd be best served pinching off that inning, maintain a lead and not try to mess with the other side of their bullpen."

Wilson struck out Moore, but allowed a two-run single to Wilson Ramos that tied the score at 4-4.

Locke's outing did not match his previous two, when he did not allow a run in 13 combined innings. He allowed four runs, three earned, in five-plus innings Saturday, walking three and striking out three.

"It was all on target today, I just didn't get ahead early in the count the way I like to and help set up the rest of the at-bat as well," Locke said.

Stephen Strasburg has not earned a win since opening day, but he pitched seven innings of four-run ball and struck out eight.

Ian Desmond's sacrifice fly scored Roger Bernadina, who was hit by a pitch and went to third on Clint Barmes; throwing error, to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the third.

Starling Marte's fourth home run, a two-run shot to right-center field, erased the Nationals' lead in the third.

The Nationals tied the game in the fourth, but Barmes recaptured the lead for the Pirates in the fifth. Barmes followed a Jordy Mercer single with his first home run this season, putting a 1-0 fastball into the bullpen to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead.

"It's always nice to help out on the offensive side of things," Barmes said. "I hit a ball hard and finally got something out of it, a little more than what I've got as of late."

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published May 5, 2013 4:00 AM


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