PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Washington Nationals clinched their third National League East title in five years, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 Saturday night behind 5 1/3 scoreless innings from rookie reliever Reynaldo Lopez.
Stephen Drew’s two-run single capped a three-run first inning for the Nationals, who return to the postseason after a one-year absence. Their win ensured a playoff berth, and they won the division about 20 minutes later when the second-place New York Mets lost to Philadelphia.
Lopez (4-3) came on to the start the bottom of the fourth inning with a 6-1 lead and allowed three hits while striking out five and walking one. He was removed a runner on first and one out in the ninth inning.
Marc Rzepczynski and Blake Treinen got one out each to end the game, and a pocket of Nationals’ fans behind the visiting dugout cheered.
Joe Ross allowed one run and five hits over 2 2/3 innings in his second start since missing 2½ months with right shoulder inflammation.
Drew’s single came after Bryce Harper’s sacrifice fly. Harper also drove in a run with a grounder during a three-run fourth that included three errors and increased the Nationals’ lead to 6-1. Jayson Werth hit into a run-scoring forceout and Anthony Rendon had a sacrifice fly.
Wilson Ramos had three hits for the Nationals, and Drew and Werth added two each.
Pittsburgh lost for the just the third time in 10 games but fell four games out of the second NL wild card with eight games remaining.
Ivan Nova (12-8) lost his second straight start, giving up six runs – three earned – and eight hits in four innings. He had gone 5-0 in his first eight starts after being acquired from the New York Yankees on Aug. 1 in a trade.
Rookie Josh Bell homered in the third.
Nationals: Drew was taking the place of 2B Daniel Murphy (strained glute), who did not start for the sixth game in a row.
Pirates: RF Gregory Polanco (facial bruise) sat out a day after being injured while running in the fence while chasing a fly ball. . LF Starling Marte (back strain) was not in the starting lineup for the 17h time in the last 18 games. . SS Jordy Mercer (right forearm discomfort) did not start for a third consecutive game.
Nationals: Dusty Baker delayed announcing his Sunday starter until he knew whether Washington had clinched the NL East.
Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-2, 4.11) will make his third career start and first since July 23. The rookie was placed on the disabled list the following day with shoulder inflammation and has made three relief appearances since being activated Aug. 28.
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