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Pirates bullpen barely holds on as Bucs win third straight, 4-3

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Justin K. Aller

The Pirates won their third straight game Friday, defeating the Nationals 4-3 as the Bucs' bullpen somehow failed to blow a 4-1 lead.

Ike Davis led off the bottom of the second inning with an infield single, and Russell Martin moved Davis to third with a double to left. Starling Marte then brought Davis home with a groundout, and Jordan Zimmermann's wild pitch allowed Martin to come home. Then in the fourth, Davis led off with another single, and Pedro Alvarez followed two batters later with a two-run homer to dead center. (The Pirates threatened later in the inning but failed to add to their lead, with the key play coming when Zimmermann shoveled the ball to the plate to get Marte as he came home on Charlie Morton's bunt attempt.)

Morton ran into trouble in the sixth and crossed the 100-pitch threshold, which wasn't good, given reports this afternoon that several relievers would be, or might be, unavailable. Morton gave up singles to the first two batters, then hit Ian Desmond. Greg Dobbs brought home a runner with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1, and then Zach Walters struck out. The Pirates then brought in Jared Hughes, who got Nate McLouth to ground out to end it.

Justin Wilson then pitched a clean seventh inning, and that's where it started to get weird. Wilson got a groundout to start the eighth, but then walked Desmond and gave up singles to Kevin Frandsen and Walters to load the bases. And then the Pirates turned to Bryan Morris, which was terrifying. Morris gave up a sacrifice fly to Scott Hairston, and then, against Danny Espinosa, missed Russell Martin's target high by about a foot and a half. The ball went to the backstop, and Frandsen came home. He was ruled safe on a close play at the plate that the Pirates challenged but lost. Morris then hit Espinosa before finally getting Denard Span to ground out.

That left Jason Grilli to pitch the ninth, closing in a one-run game despite not having had any rehab. Grilli's command was absent, but he did, luckily, have swing-and-miss stuff, and after walking Anthony Rendon, he got a strikeout and two fly ball outs -- the last coming on a leaping catch by Josh Harrison -- to preserve a 4-3 lead. Phew.