WASHINGTON D.C. (KDKA/AP) — The Pirates had the rare opportunity to gain a game and a half on the first-place St. Louis Cardinals with their doubleheader in Washington D.C. on Saturday.
All the pieces were falling into place, beginning with a 5-3 win in the first game, but a 4-3 loss in the second game ended those hopes.
Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen hit back-to-back homers in the eighth inning of the opening game. It was the Bucs first doubleheader in the nation’s capital since the 19th Century.
Jones and McCutchen took Sean Burnett (3-5) deep to left field, both with two strikes on the count.
Starters James McDonald and Livan Hernandez dominated much of the game, combining for 13 strikeouts and six 1-2-3 innings.
McDonald allowed two runs and seven hits over 6 1-3 innings before giving way to Jose Veras (2-2), who pitched 1 2-3 innings to get the win.
Joel Hanrahan gave up one run in the ninth but still got his 24th save in 24 chances this season, tying the club record for consecutive saves opportunities converted.
Hernandez allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings, but Burnett entered the game and uncharacteristically gave up the long ball. He had allowed only one home run in 27 2-3 innings before Jones put one into the red seats in left center to break a 2-all tie. McCutchen then deposited one into the Pirates bullpen.
Jones finished with three hits – a single, double and homer – and Alex Presley had three singles for the Pirates, who added a run in the ninth on pinch-hitter Matt Diaz’s RBI single.
The Pirates opened with a pair of runs in the first on Jones’ RBI single and Neil Walker’s sacrifice fly, the first earned runs scored on Washington’s pitching staff since Tuesday.
The Nationals picked up a run on Ivan Rodriguez’s RBI single in the second, but a chance to make it a bigger inning was wiped out when Danny Espinosa was picked off second.
The Nationals also loaded the bases with one out in the fifth after two hits and a walk, but McDonald got Ryan Zimmerman to foul out to the first baseman and struck out cleanup hitter Laynce Nix swinging.
Rick Ankiel tied the game at 2 with a pinch-hit homer that barely cleared the wall in right-center in the seventh. It was his second home run of the season and his first since the second game of the season.
In the second game, Rodriguez drove in the go-ahead run for the Nats as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.
His single to right scored Ankiel to cap a two-run rally. Pinch-runner Brian Bixler had tied the game on a double steal, taking third and then coming home when catcher Eric Fryer’s throw went into left field for an error.
The Nationals’ slumping outfielder Jayson Werth batted fifth for the first time this season in the second game, but it didn’t help. He went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.
Ryan Mattheus (1-0) pitched the eighth inning to get the win in Game 2, and Drew Storen handled the ninth for his 20th save.
Tony Watson (0-1) took the loss. Brad Lincoln, recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to pitch the second game, allowed two runs over six innings in his season debut.
For the Nationals, John Lannan gave up three runs and six hits over seven innings.
The Pirates and Nationals play again on Sunday afternoon at 1:35 p.m.