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Pirates successfully maintain draft position with 5-4 loss to Nationals

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

The Nationals did their best to help Oakland with their draft position. In the end, though, Clint Hurdle overcame Dusty Baker’s strategery and the Nats’ tenuous grasp of baseball fundamentals to preserve the ninth spot in the draft thanks to Oakland’s win over Texas.

Ivan Nova, making his last start of the year, struggled in the first, but got some help. After a leadoff double, the Nats gave him a free out with a sacrifice bunt before Daniel Murphy drove in the run with a single that would have scored the runner from second. The Nats got runners to second and third with one out, but on a grounder to third Anthony Rendon, who was on third, wandered too far off the base because, y’know, only the Pirates have bad fundamentals. Sean Rodriguez alertly tagged Rendon out trying to scamper back to the bag.

The Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the third and also lost Nova. After a one-out walk to Max Moroff, Nova fouled a bunt attempt off his finger and had to leave the game. Moroff reached second when pinch hitter Steven Brault grounded out, then scored when Chris Bostick lined what should have been a single to left-center. Bostick alertly stretched it into a double when Michael Taylor dawdled getting the ball back in and also made a bad throw because, y’know, only the Pirates have bad fundamentals. He then scored on a single by Starling Marte.

Tyler Glasnow replaced Nova for the third and needed help to survive the inning. He walked the first two batters, but got a free out when the Nats sacrificed, because, y’know, only the Pirates are dumb enough to give away outs like that to a pitcher who can’t throw strikes. A grounder scored the tying run, but Glasnow escaped further damage.

Glasnow had an easy fourth inning, then got through the fifth with the help of a blunder by the Nats’ blue chip prospect, Victor Robles. After a single, Robles easily stole second, but took his foot off the bag and was alertly tagged out by Bostick because, y’know, only the Pirates have bad fundamentals.

Two outs in the sixth was as far as Glasnow got, as he walked the bases loaded in the process. Fortunately, Edgar Santana came in to fan Robles and end the threat. Glasnow finished with five walks and two hits allowed in three and two-thirds innings, but only one run.

One thing the Nats couldn’t help the Pirates with was their helplessness against badly struggling pitchers. Edwin Jackson came in with a 12.38 ERA in four September starts, but he blew the Pirates away other than the glitch in the third. They managed only four hits and whiffed seven times, including all three of Josh Bell’s at-bats, in Jackson’s six innings.

In the seventh, Clint Hurdle replaced Santana, who’d faced just the one batter, with Dovydas Neverauskas because he could. (I suppose I should be happy it wasn’t Joaquin Benoit.) Neverauskas surrendered a walk and a triple, sandwiched around a line out, to put the Nats ahead. Hurdle then brought in lefty Jack Leathersich to face lefty Adam LInd, showing that Hurdle has discovered the concept of a lefty specialist now that the games are meaningless. Of course, Hurdle hasn’t discovered that Leathersich generally has had reverse platoon splits in the upper minors. Lind hit a deep enough fly to make it 4-2.

Meanwhile, the Nats’ rebuilt bullpen waltzed through six Pirate hitters in the seventh and eighth innings, but after a scoreless bottom of the eighth from Johnny Barbato, a funny thing happened. Andrew McCutchen led off the ninth against the Nats’ closer, lefty Sean Doolittle, with a single. Then Bell, whom Hurdle has been sitting against lefties, blasted his 26th HR to tie the game, 4-4.

Well, that part was fun, but back to business. Hurdle went to the Human Sunk Cost Fallacy, Daniel Hudson, for the bottom of the ninth. Hudson didn’t prolong the inevitable. Three batters produced three singles and the Pirates lost, 5-4. Mission accomplished in competitive fashion.