WASHINGTON — Two innings of mistake-riddled play scuttled the preceding seven for the Pirates Saturday night. Left-hander Tony Watson repeated a pitch sequence a batter had seen 24 hours earlier. Justin Wilson put the go-ahead runner in scoring position. Gregory Polanco could not reach a ball that became the winning hit.
"We weren't sharp at the end," manager Clint Hurdle said, and at the end, the Pirates lost their fourth consecutive game, 4-3, as the Washington Nationals grabbed a walk-off win at Nationals Park.
After Watson surrendered a 3-0 Pirates lead in the eighth, Wilson entered to start the ninth and walked Bryce Harper. He threw a cutter in the dirt to Wilson Ramos that allowed Harper to reach second.
Wilson tried to put a two-strike fastball inside to Wilson Ramos, but left it over the plate.
"He got his hands extended, good hitting by him," Wilson said.
Ramos hit a fly ball to right. Polanco, who despite his athleticism still is learning the nuances of the position, got a late jump, took a long route and did not catch it. The ball bounced into the Nationals bullpen, scoring Harper from second and ending the game.
"You got a play in a position to throw a guy out, you can't cover both forward and back," Hurdle said, regarding Polanco.
The three runs Watson allowed, two on Adam LaRoche's homer, set up Ramos' walk-off hit. Watson also walked the leadoff batter, putting pinch-hitter Michael Taylor aboard.
Denard Span and Kevin Frandsen singled, with Frandsen's hit scoring a run. Anthony Rendon grounded into a double play that momentarily defused the situation and brought LaRoche to the plate.
La Roche had two hits and two RBIs Friday night, neither against Watson, who got him to ground out to first Friday in the seventh inning.
LaRoche watched a slider away for ball one.
He turned on the next pitch, a fastball low and inside, and hit it into the Nationals bullpen. His 18th homer tied the score at 3-3.
"Honestly, the same sequence as [Friday] night that I got him out on," Watson said. "Caught it out front, and he does what he does."
Watson had not allowed a home run to a left-handed batter since Shin-Soo Choo hit one off him in the 2013 National League wild-card playoff game.
"Bottom line is you got to get the lefties out, and it didn't happen," Watson said.
Jeff Locke kept the Nationals scoreless for 52/3 innings, while allowing four hits. He struck out six.
"We're trying to pound the strike zone, mix some pitches up," Locke said.
"They're going to get their hits, you just hope that they're as minimal as possible and defense makes some great plays.
Gaby Sanchez had three hits, including a two-run single in the third, and Starling Marte went 2 for 4 with an RBI double.
Since returning from the disabled list Aug. 5, Marte is 15 for 43 (.349) with five doubles, a triple and a home run.
"I'm trying to be consistent," Marte said.
"I'm not thinking about power, nothing like that. I'm trying to hit the ball on the ground, be on base more."
Gio Gonzalez had not finished the fifth in three of his past five starts and twice left before recording the final out in the fourth.
He completed the fifth Saturday, but it took him 102 pitches, and that was as far as he went. He allowed seven hits and three runs but also notched seven strikeouts.
Three scoreless innings from Craig Stammen supported Gonzalez's effort before Matt Thornton came into pitch a scoreless ninth.
The Pirates are unlikely to lose many games in such a manner, but this one further complicated their efforts to win the division or earn a wild-card spot.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.