In the second, Casey McGehee tried hard for his first long ball, but Rick Ankiel hauled his drive on the track in straightaway center, 400' away. Rod Barajas rolled a two-out single into left and Josh Harrison followed with a rope into center. They didn't score, but at least they got J-Mick to the plate and the top of the order due in the third. Fifteen more pitches for McDonald in the second and three more strikeouts. He's dealing in the early going.
With one down in the third, Walker rolled a 3-2 heater into right for a knock. This time, Zimmerman's fastball bested Cutch, who grounded into a 6-4-3 DP after first launching a drive that bent barely foul. J-Mick was on a roll; he struck out the first two batters before his mound foe flew out routinely to Cutch; he had six straight Ks going into that at-bat.
Pedro had the green light on a 3-0 count, and hit a weak fly to left as he was late on a heater. Garrett Jones went up hacking and struck out swinging at three pitches off the dish. McGehee drew a free pass, and it worked just fine. Barajas caught a fastball belt high on the inside half of the plate and knocked it over the LF fence to give the Bucs a 3-0 lead and J-Mick a little breathing room. He whiffed two more, and even with 9 Ks in four innings is only at 53 pitches.
The Pirates went down in order in the fifth. Bryce Harper became the first Nat baserunner when he nursed a 3-2 walk from McDonald after leadoff hitter Adam LaRoche had his extra base hit bid sweetly snared by a leaping Cutch in center, who juggled the catch after bouncing off the wall. Harper stayed put after a fly out and another fan job.
As so often happens, the guy making the great catch leads off. And Cutch celebrated in a hurry, jerking a first pitch slider out of the yard for his second bomb of the night. El Toro then reached on SS Ian Desmond's throwing error. A wild pitch moved him to second, and there he remained. Z-Man is at 107 pitches, and likely has seen his last hitter of the night.
Washington got its first knock when Jesus Flores nailed a hanging 1-2 slider into left for a two-bagger. Pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi followed with a first pitch double to left center that deflected off JT's glove on a ball he called Cutch off to put runners at second and third.
A grounder to third and a K held them there, but Ryan Zimmerman ruined the effort with a single to right, plating both men. He went to second on the throw to the plate that missed the cut-off man. LaRoche went with a slider on the outside black and blasted it off the wall in left center; the big guy chugged all the way into third on a ball that turned Tabata around in the outfield.
That was it for J-Mac; Tony Watson came in to face the lefty Harper. McDonald went 5-2/3 frames, giving up three runs on four hits with a walk and career high 11 whiffs on 86 pitches. Watson did his job, getting the rook on a 3-2 sinker that he popped up to Barajas. But it's a game now at 4-3; sometimes that third out is a bear to get.
Craig Stammen came on in the seventh, and Harrison greeted him by pulling a ground double up the line into left. Clint Barmes came in to pinch hit...and bunted. He moved Harrison over to the hot corner. JT followed with a 3-2 walk. The Kid poked a fastball that was way outside to short, but it worked as he beat the relay to first and Harrison came home to make it 5-3. Played for a run, got a run - and in this case, a big one.
Juan Cruz took the bump for the Pirates while Barmes stayed on to play short. Danny Espinosa smacked a ball toward the left field notch that JT dropped to start the Nats off; it was generously ruled a double. Rick Ankiel fought him and finally drew a nine pitch walk. A bunt moved them up 90 feet. Lombardozzi weakly rolled one back to the mound, icing the runners. Desmond spoiled a couple before going down on a slider; the Bucs got that third out this inning as Cruz hung tough.
Old Bucco lefty Sean Burnett climbed the hill for the Nats in the eighth with Pedro and Jones due up. It took him eight pitches to retire the side. Jason Grilli grabbed the ball for the Buccos as Nate McLouth went to left, JT to right and Jones sat down. He walked Chad Tracy to begin the frame. Zimmerman went down looking. Pirate nemesis LaRoche took a ball to the track in center, but Cutch was there to take it in. Harper hit a can of corn to right center, and the last mile approached.
Ryan Mattheus took over in the ninth, and his first pitch was dropped into right by Barajas, his third knock of the evening. Oddly, McLouth wasn't bunting, and popped out. Barmes lined a single to right, Barajas stopping at second. Tabata swung at the first pitch, rolled it barely past the plate, and was the back end of a rare 2-5-3 DP. He didn't break much of a sweat getting up the line, capping an all-around tough night.
It was Hanny time. With an out, Ankiel walked on a 3-2 pitch, with all the balls just outside the black. Flores reached on an infield roller that Walker fielded on the shortstop side of second. Lombardozzi popped out foul to Pedro. Desmond swung through a slider to end the drama; the Bucs split the short series with the Nats with a 5-3 win as J-Mick won his third and Hanny notched save #8.
The good news is that Bucs righted the ship; the bad news is that they had to use four more relievers, who shut out the Nats. They're headed to Detroit for three games, where they'll be playing with a DH at a time when they're carrying an extra arm, which could work out minus the need for a pinch hitter. No break after that, either - the Bucs aren't off until the 24th.
Charlie Morton faces Justin Verlander tomorrow night in Motown in the opener of a three game set.
- Tonight marked the first multi-HR game for a Pirate player this season, and was the fifth of Cutch's career.
- A little early for scoreboard watching, but the Pirates (18-20) are in third place right now, four games back of the Cards. So they're hangin' around.