The Pirates hit three home runs for the second consecutive night and weathered Max Scherzer's second start of the season against them, beating the Nationals, 7-5, to take the first two games of the four-game series with Washington.
The Pirates took an early lead off Scherzer, whose previous start against them this season was somewhat memorable, on Pedro Alvarez's two-run home run that hit the Allegheny River on a bounce in the second inning. It was Alvarez's second homer in back-to-back nights, coming after the Bucs were rumored to be looking to trade him.
Jeff Locke faced just nine batters to get through the first three innings, but he faced nine to get through the fourth as Washington took a 4-2 lead. After fanning Michael Taylor to start the inning, Locke walked Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper. Wilson Ramos singled home Espinosa. After an Ian Desmond walk, Tyler Moore doubled in two more runs and Dan Uggla drove home another with a single.
Locke made it through five innings with five strikeouts, three walks and the four runs on four hits. Fortunately, that gave the Pirates a chance to win when they were seeing the ball and it was carrying on a warm night at PNC Park.
After Jaff Decker drew a pinch-hit walk to start the bottom of the fifth, Gregory Polanco got into an 0-2 hole. He worked the count to 3-2, then fouled off five straight Scherzer fastballs coming in at 95-96 miles per hour. He deposited the 12th pitch of the at-bat, a curveball, in the right field seats. It was a pretty great display from Polanco, particularly against a pitcher of Scherzer's ilk.
That tied the score at 4 momentarily, and Neil Walker followed with a solo homer to right-center for a 5-4 lead.
That, too, was short-lived, as Desmond hit his second homer in two nights, too, teeing off on Vance Worley to lead off the sixth.
That was all the Nationals would get, though, as Worley recovered to strike out two that inning, then Jared Hughes, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon pitched three scoreless innings.
Scherzer was done after five innings. He had eight strikeouts and one walk, but allowed seven more hits than he did a little more than a month before.
With Scherzer out, the Pirates re-took the lead off Sammy Solis in the sixth when Francisco Cervelli singled, Brent Morel doubled to the warning track to score Cervelli and Polanco singled to score Morel.
Polanco, Walker, Cervelli and Jung-Ho Kang each went 2-for-4. It was Kang's sixth straight game with two hits. That streak started Sunday, when Jordy Mercer went down, and has been pretty important since then.
The Pirates secured at least a series split with the NL East-leading Nationals, and got through the toughest pitching matchup of the weekend with a victory. Aramis Ramirez comes Saturday and suddenly it's not all doom and gloom around this team.