A constant stream of baserunners and a great performance by rookie pitcher Joe Ross led the Nationals to a 4-1 victory over A.J. Burnett and the Bucs Friday night, ending the Pirates' winning streak at eight.
Early in the game, the Nationals chopped away at Burnett and the Pirates with one hit after another. Three hits in the first, including a double by Wilson Ramos, led to two runs. After the Bucs cut the lead to 2-1 with three singles of their own in the second, the Nats got three more hits in the bottom of the inning, only to leave empty-handed when Burnett got Anthony Rendon to ground into a double play.
In the third, Yunel Escobar reached on a single and headed to second on an error that was charged to Jung-Ho Kang, but that actually should have gone to Pedro Alvarez -- Kang made an amazing throw across the diamond, but Alvarez failed to field it. Escobar then came home on Ramos' single. It was a rough defensive night for Alvarez -- in the fourth, Ross got his first big-league hit when Alvarez tried to field a ball that clearly should have gone to Josh Harrison at second. That was far from the first time this year Alvarez had tried to field a ball out of his zone and left first base uncovered, but he was farther out of position on this play than I can remember at any point this season. Anyway, the Nationals left the bases loaded that inning. This one easily could have turned into a blowout, but it didn't.
The Nats didn't score again until the seventh. Clint Robinson singled and came around when Gregory Polanco slammed into the wall failing to catch a ball hit by Danny Espinosa. Espinosa ended up at third, and Polanco left the game, although it initially appeared the Pirates had decided to leave him in, but then thought better of it and removed him in a double switch. If he's hurt, it doesn't appear to be serious.
Anyway, Burnett battled his way through 6.2 innings and struck out seven. It was a hard-fought outing -- the Nats got 14 hits against him, but Burnett deserves credit for lasting as long as he did.
Meanwhile, Ross' pitching surely must have impressed the ground-ball-happy Pirates. He didn't actually get that many outs on the ground, but he kept the ball down and struck out 11 batters. It was an amazing performance for a pitcher promoted straight from Double-A. He's young and inexperienced enough that he'll probably hit some speed bumps at some point, but he looks very promising.