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Free baserunners cost Pirates in 5-4 loss to Nationals

Justin K. Aller

The Pirates allowed way too many free baserunners with walks, errors and hits by pitch, and the Nationals took just enough advantage to win, 5-4.

In the third, Jeff Locke hit Roger Bernardina, who then moved to third after a throwing error by Clint Barmes. Ian Desmond brought Bernardina home with a sacrifice fly.

The Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning when Barmes singled and Starling Marte homered. But the Nats tied the game in the fourth. Ryan Zimmerman hit a ball into the corner that Marte for some reason tried to stop by taking his glove off and trying to stop the ball with his glove while the glove was in his dominant hand. Zimmerman wound up on third, then came home on a sacrifice fly by Adam LaRoche.

The Bucs took a 4-2 lead in the fifth when Jordy Mercer singled and Clint Barmes homered. But Pirates pitchers got themselves into trouble yet again. Bryce Harper singled, and then Locke walked Ryan Zimmerman. Justin Wilson came on in relief and walked the bases full, then gave up a two-run single up the middle by Wilson Ramos. Wilson struck out the next two batters to end the threat, but the score was tied at four.

The Nationals nearly broke the game open in the seventh when Bucs pitchers allowed an error and two walks, but Bryan Morris (I guess it's completely impossible to use Mark Melancon before the eighth, but this actually turned out fine) got a big strikeout to end the threat.

Finally, in the ninth, Tony Watson (again, apparently you can't use your best reliever there) hit Ryan Zimmerman, who moved to second on Adam LaRoche's single, then to third on a double steal. He came home on Tyler Moore's sacrifice fly. Russell Martin almost started a rally leading off the bottom of the inning, but got thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double -- a gamble, but a somewhat understandable one given that it was the ninth and the Pirates were down one.

Really, though, it's surprising the Nationals only scored five times. The Pirates walked six batters, hit three more, and had two errors. It's just about impossible to keep runs off the board when that happens.