The Pittsburgh Pirates struggled to get anything going offensively against Washington Nationals veteran pitcher Stephen Strasburg all night long. After seven innings of impressive work from the righty hurler, the Pirates took advantage of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth inning to ultimately take the game 4-1.
Chris Archer rebounded after a dangerous looking top of the first inning to put a zero on the board, and Strasburg quickly followed suit. However, during a warm-up pitch before the top of the second, Archer motioned to catcher Jacob Stallings and promptly walked down the the clubhouse with the trainer, ending his night early due to what the AT&T Sportsnet broadcast is calling “right shoulder discomfort”.
Reliever Clay Holmes came on, and while there were some shaky moments along the way, he matched Strasburgh frame for frame into the top of the fifth inning, where the score was still 0-0. After a lineout by Strasburg and a single with a caught stealing Trea Turner, Holmes plunked Adam Eaton with his 64th pitch of the night, bringing out manager Clint Hurdle to make a pitching change. Michael Feliz entered, and immediately allowed an RBI double to Anthony Rendon, and when the dust settled on the top of the fifth inning the Nationals were leading 1-0.
Strasburg continued to dominate, as he had thrown just 76 pitches through six shutout innings, allowing just four hits and no walks. The Pirates continued to match him though, finding more success from relievers Feliz and Richard Rodriguez in the sixth and seventh innings. Josh Bell gave a 2-2 fastball a ride in the bottom of the seventh, but he came up a few feet short of the center field wall, flying out to center fielder Victor Robles. A strikeout, walk, and groundout ended the frame.
The combination of Rodriguez and Felipe Vazquez kept the score at 1-0 through the top of the eighth inning without much trouble, and the Nats surprisingly took out Strasburg going into the bottom half of the eighth after 94 pitches. Wander Suero started the inning and allowed a single to Stallings and a walk to Melky Cabrera. Adam Frazier then pushed a bunt past the pitcher and charging first baseman, and everyone was safe, loading the bases with no outs.
Righty reliever Daniel Hudson came in for Suero, and he let up a sacrifice fly to Bryan Reynolds that tied the game at 1-1. But it didn’t stay that way for long, as Starling Marte launched a 1-2 fastball the other way for a long three-run home run. All of a sudden the Pirates were heading to the ninth with a three-run lead, and Strasburg’s fantastic start was spoiled by the bullpen and timely Pittsburgh offense.
Vazquez finished off the game to earn his third win of the season, and the Bucs evened the series at one game a piece heading into game three on Wednesday night. The victory snaps a three-game Pirates losing streak, and the loss is just the second for the Nationals in their last nine contests. Next up, Joe Musgrove hosts lefty Patrick Corbin on Wednesday night at 7:05 pm Eastern.