The remarkable -- dare we say storybook -- year of Josh Harrison continues and with it, spurred by other unexpected heroes, so does the Pirates bid to resurrect their season.
The 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals last night -- with Harrison driving home the winning run in the seventh inning -- was the Pirates fourth straight. They were eight games under .500 at one point Sunday. At the end of the week that deficit has been reduced to four.
The 10-game trip beginning tomorrow, which had been speculated as being the possible undoing of the Pirates, now looks far less daunting. Indeed, with six of those games against the Mets and Padres, both sub-.500 teams, the trip could enable the Pirates to build on their new-found momentum.
With glove, with bat and with attitude, Harrison has sparked this revival. But he was hardly alone last night.
■ Jose Tabata, one of the players Harrison unseated in right field, tied the game in the seventh with a sacrifice fly while pinch-hitting for Clint Barmes.
■ Jared Hughes, who has spent much of the season in the minors, earned the win by pitching a scoreless seventh in relief of Gerrit Cole. Hughes did it by retiring the Washington 2-3-4 hitters on a pop up and two infield grounders.
■ Jeanmar Gomez, who had been scored upon in five of his past nine appearances, pitched a 1-2-3 eighth on three ground-ball outs.
Hughes and Gomez were in unusual roles because Justin Wilson, Tony Watson and Jason Grilli were not available due to previous workloads. Closer Mark Melancon was available and he continues the string of 1-2-3 innings to earn his ninth save.
The expected duel between former No. 1 overall draft choices Stephen Strasburg and Cole played out well. Cole gave up a fourth-inning home run to Ian Desmond. Strasburg reciprocated in the bottom half of the inning, as Neil Walker homered.
In the fifth, Cole allowed four baserunners after two were out and the National went ahead, 2-1. In six innings, Cole allowed two runs and five hits while walking three and striking out seven. He threw 112 pitches.
In the seventh, with Strasburg still pitching, Russell Martin singled, moved to third on Starling Marte’s double and scored on Tabata’s sacrifice fly. Washington manager Matt Williams chose to walk left-handed hitting pinch-hitter Travis Snider to face Harrison, a right-handed hitter. Williams didn’t know he was messing with fate. Harrison’s single brought home Marte.
The Pirates are in fourth place, six games behind Milwaukee, which has lost six of eight. They trail second-place St. Louis by 4 1/2 games and third-place Cincinnati by one-half game.
Francisco Liriano pitches against Doug Fister this afternoon as the Pirates go for the sweep of the four-game series.