PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Washington starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg lived up to the hype Thursday night, striking out 13 Pirates batters in a 4-2 Nationals win.
He pitched six innings, allowing just five hits and two runs (one earned) to earn his third win of the season.
“That’s a good arm,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “With a kid with a head to work with it, the progress he’s made in a short period of time at this level, it’s something.”
His counterpart, Pirates starter Kevin Correia, was also impressive. He pitched seven innings on a night when the Pirates desperately needed it after the bullpen was forced to pitch eight combined innings the night before.
However, he left a couple pitches hanging in the zone that Washington took advantage of.
Leading 2-0 in the sixth, Roger Bernadina and Adam LaRoche each hit home runs to center field for the Nationals. Bernadina led off the inning with a solo shot, and LaRoche followed with a two-run homer after Ryan Zimmerman walked.
“I needed to be efficient and I did that,” Correia said. “If I could take back a pitch or two I think it would have been a pretty good game. Obviously, when you’re facing one of the better pitchers in the league you have less room for error.
“That ended up costing us the game.”
The Bucs had a chance to make up for those three runs in the bottom of the sixth, as Strasburg uncharacteristically lost some of his control.
After a ground out and a strikeout, Strasburg walked Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker, setting up a bases loaded situation for Garrett Jones.
Jones, who had already struck out twice, got into a hole early in the count and struck out swinging for a third time, ending the threat.
“I know he wants to be aggressive and throw strikes,” Jones said. “He’s definitely not a guy that’s wild. He throws strikes.
“I was just ready for pitch No. 1 and get a good pitch to hit. He gave me a couple pitches to hit. I just swung right through them.”
It was the biggest threat the rest of the way, as Pittsburgh managed just one base runner in the final three innings.
Rick Ankiel hit a solo homer to right field off Pirates reliever Chris Resop for extra insurance to ice the game for Washington.
“He can pitch,” Pirates right fielder Jose Tabata said. “Fastball, curveball, slider, changeup — we battled, but he won today.”
It was Pittsburgh that jumped out to the first lead Thursday night.
After seven straight strikeouts from Strasburg, the Pirates broke through in the fourth. Tabata singled and advanced to second on an Alex Presley bunt. McCutchen followed with a single to right, driving in Tabata.
Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted a throw home, allowing McCutchen to take second. That choice by Harper proved costly, as Walker singled two batters later to drive in McCutchen and give the Buccos a 2-0 lead.
Tabata led all Pirates batters with two hits. McCutchen, Walker and Michael McKenry also had base hits.
“It would have been definitely great to get the sweep,” Jones said. “(We’ve) been playing great baseball the last two games. (We) battled hard all game. It would have been great to get three (wins), but it didn’t work out for us this time.”