The Nationals cracked 11 hits, including two first-inning home runs, in Ivan Nova’s 4 2-3 innings and took advantage of a key fifth-inning error to pull away for a 9-3 win over the Pirates on Wednesday night.
Having gone to Washington on a five-game winning streak, the Pirates have lost three straight.
The Nats’ consistent offense kept the pressure on the Pirates in the early going, before four fifth-inning runs gave Washington a comfortable lead.
Holding a 4-2 lead through 4 1/2, the Nationals had their first three batters reach in the fifth, loading the bases for Andrew Stevenson. Stevenson hit a grounder to second baseman Max Moroff in a drawn-in infield. Moroff’s positioning didn’t appear to make much of a difference, though, he just couldn’t handle a shorthop, and two runs scored as the ball rolled into the outfield. A forceout and a Bryce Harper single plated two more and, finally, chased Nova, who had faced 28 batters.
The Pirates took an early 1-0 lead in a slow top of the first that saw two challenges of what used to be the neighborhood play at second base. Clint Hurdle successfully challenged the play at second on Josh Bell’s ground ball — shortstop Trea Turner had left the bag early — leaving the bases loaded with one out. Corey Dickerson’s grounder to short scored Gregory Polanco, and Hurdle appeared to have a case on a second challenge at the keystone, but that out call was upheld. Francisco Cervelli struck out to end the threat.
All that work went away quickly as Harper clubbed a leadoff and, two batters later, Matt Adams did the same.
The Pirates tied it at 2 briefly in the third, on Polanco’s double and Dickerson’s single, but the Nationals pulled ahead in the bottom of the inning, when Harper doubled and scored.
Pedro Severino singled to lead off the bottom of the fourth and scored on Harper’s groundout. Harper finished 3-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs in his second game batting leadoff.
Cervelli hit a solo homer in the sixth, but Stephen Strasburg mostly rolled, with 11 strikeouts and just one walk, allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings.
Kyle Crick worked 1 1-3, allowing a run in the sixth. Steven Brault, back in the bullpen, had three strikeouts, a hit and a walk in two innings.
Polanco, Dickerson and Starling Marte had two hits each.
The Pirates will look to avoid the four-game sweep in Thursday’s 1:05 p.m. game. Trevor Williams faces Jeremy Hellickson.