Kevin Correia was hangin' in, too. He dished out four scoreless, giving up a trio of knocks. The Bucs drew first blood in their half. JT singled to lead off (both were on first pitches) and went to second on an Alex Presley bunt.
Cutch knocked one into center, plating Tabata, and moved on to second when Bryce Harper's throw went home. That rookie mistake cost the Nats a second run when Neil Walker dropped a two-out bloop into center to put the Bucs up 2-0. Walker was caught trying to get to second; better the Nats wised up now than before.
The fifth went quietly, with the Pirates stranding Mike McKenry, who smacked a two-out double ahead of Correia. But in the sixth, the Nats came storming back.The first hitter, Roger Bernadina, went yard on a 3-1 heater he bombed into the bullpen. A 3-2 walk was followed by another blast, this one by Adam LaRoche, also into the bullpen, and Washington jumped on top 3-2.
The Pirates drew three straight two-out walks in their half to Cutch, Pedro and The Kid. Garrett Jones couldn't make Strasburg pay a price. He struck out swinging for his third punchout of the evening, helping out by fishing for a couple of curves. The good news, though, was that SS was up to 102 pitches.
Correia came out in the seventh, and retired the Nats in order. Ryan Mattheus took the ball from Strasburg, who whiffed 13 in six frames. The Bucs hit three balls squarely off him, but had nothing to show for it but a pair of long flies and a lineout. Correia was done. He went seven, giving up three runs on six hits and two walks with a K, tossing an efficient 81 pitches.
Tony Watson took the bump. He made easy work of the first two hitters before LaRoche roped a double the opposite way. No problem. Watson fanned Harper on a 94 MPH heater to end the threat. Tyler Clippard climbed the hill for the Nats. Like Watson, he got the first two outs quietly, then had to sweat it when Cutch took a cutter to the wall in center for the third out.
A relatively fresh Chris Resop took over in the ninth. He gave Washington an insurance run when the second batter, Rick Ankiel, took a first pitch slider and dropped a high fly a row or two deep over the Clemente Wall to put the Nats up 4-2. Pinch hitter Chad Tracy singled with two away, but was left stranded.
Henry Rodriguez was on the mound looking for the save. Pedro drove one to the fence in center; it was another loud out. Neil Walker struck out, but the 98 MPH heater eluded Jesus Flores, and he made a poor throw to first to keep The Kid alive. Jones worked the count to 3-2, and bombed a heater down the middle into right center, where it was hauled in at the track. Walker jogged to second ona fielder's indifference steal while Casey McGehee was at bat, replacing Clint Barmes. He died there as McGehee bounced out to second, sealing Washington's 4-2 win.
The Pirate offense is its own worst enemy. The bottom of the order is still a black hole. And you don't strike out as often as the Pirates without helping the pitcher, and the Bucs are still undisciplined at the dish.
Hey, it's one thing to expand the zone with two strikes, but fishing early in the count with an expanded swing zone is what leads to two-strike holes. The team needs to get into hitters counts way more often. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
During this series, the Bucs hit several balls just short of the fence between the alleys. At least some of the hitters are starting to square up and use the whole field. It may be frustrating in May, when the air is heavy and damp, but if it continues, the "drive it up the middle" approach espoused by Clint Hurdle and Gregg Ritchie should show dividends as the season heats up.
Bud Norris of the Astros takes on James McDonald in the opening match of a three game set against Houston tomorrow.
- Jose Tabata was the only Pirate starter not to strike out tonight.
- So far this season, Kevin Correia has faced Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Hudson and Johnny Cueto. He's sure not been getting the luck of the draw in match-ups so far this year.
- In 24 career starts, Stephen Strasburg's highest K totals are against the Pirates, with 14 in his MLB debut and 13 tonight - and he's only faced them twice.
- The attendance was 15,381, another poor showing for the Nat series on a chilly but clear night. We thought Strasburg might drum up a little more gate.
- Yesterday, the Bucco bullpen tossed 8 innings for the second time this season. The first time was in April to earn a 5-4 win at Arizona when Jeff Karstens went out early with a bum wing.