Nate McLouth opened the third by taking a pitch off the knee. Strasburg couldn't bunt him up, but Nate stole second when Martin's throw was on the wrong side of the bag. An out later, both Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth battled long against Cole, with Rendon walking and Werth whiffing, but his pitch count is at 50 now after being on cruise control in the first two frames. Strasburg spun another quiet frame.
With one gone in the fourth, Cole's bugaboo, the long ball, bit him again when Ian Desmond took a flat slider and drilled it into the third row in left field. Dobbs followed with another soft hit that popped out of a diving Cutch's glove upon landing. Gerrit recovered, getting a K and missing another twice when plate ump Gabe Morales missed a pair of back door breakers, but he got McLouth to softly ground out to limit the damage.
Strasburg was human, too. With an out, The Kid banged a belt-high heater into the bullpen to knot the score. Cutch tried to follow, but his drive was roped in a step short of the Clemente Wall. Ike walked and Russ singled, but Stephen schooled Pedro, getting to miss a couple of changeups for the K.Cole, meanwhile, showed some ankle discomfort in the dugout, and Clint warned the pen on the horn to be ready for the fifth.
His ankle didn't bother him as he got the first two outs, but the third out was elusive. Rendon hit a ground ball single to left, Werth walked, and Wilson Ramos blooped an RBI knock into right between Josh and Walker. Then Desmond was drilled with a 1-2 pitch to juice the bases. Cole got Dobbs to ground out to keep it 2-1.
Starling Marte singled to open the Buc half, but had a brain cramp trying to steal second; he apparently lost track of the count and thought ball four had been delivered. It hadn't, and he stopped running on what was a terrible throw to second and was tagged out standing. Strasburg picked it up after that, whiffing Clint Barmes and Cole.
With an out in the sixth, McLouth walked and was bunted to second. Denard Span got ahead 3-1 and lined one to right, but Josh was positioned perfectly to end the frame. Cole has set his personal pitch record at 112. Harrison opened by smoking one to left, but Nate still has some wheels and leather, and hauled it in a step short of the fence. Cutch singled an out later, but was left there as Davis whiffed on a change up; it's been a terrifically effective pitch for Strasburg tonight.
Jared Hughes worked a calm seventh. The Pirates started off with a single by Russ. After Strasburg sat down Pedro again, Marte hit a curve off the wall in right center; it was played well by Werth, and the Bucs had runners at second and third. JT hit for Barmes, and his liner to center off another curve was hauled in by Span, but was enough to get Martin home easily. Travis Snider hit for Hughes, and after getting ahead 2-0 was walked intentionally. Why someone would want to get to the red hot Josh is beyond us, and Harrison made them pay by singling up the middle to score Marte, although the Bucs lost Snider trying to get to third. Still, it made it 3-2 Pittsburgh.
Tabata stayed in to play right and Jordy Mercer went to short. Jeanmar Gomez worked a four pitch eighth, with Ike Davis' diving stop ending the frame. Drew Storen got the first two Bucs handily, then an Ike single and another HBP to Martin brought on the call for lefty Jerry Blevins to face Pedro. With the shift on, he rolled one to second to end the frame. Mark the Shark got the nod, facing the 8-9-1 hitters. A punchout and two weak grounders later, the Bucs had another win in the books. Jared Hughes had his third win and Melancon his ninth save.
Like last night, the Pirates ground out a tight victory by limiting mistakes (except on the basepaths, sheesh), getting lights out work from the pen and eventually banging the clutch hit. They looked like the 2013 Pirates again.
Francisco Liriano and Doug Fister close out the series tomorrow with the Bucs looking for a holiday sweep.
- Pittsburgh has won four in a row and five of six games. At 22-26, they're slowly clawing their way back into respectability.
- The bullpen remained pot-luck: Jason Grilli (he threw simulated games Tuesday & Wednesday, then worked yesterday), Tony Watson and Justin Wilson were booked for downtime tonight.
- Adam LaRoche will return to the Nats from the DL for either tomorrow or Monday.