Pirates’ 8-game win streak ends with 4-1 loss to Nationals
WASHINGTON (AP) — The hits just kept on coming against A.J. Burnett, more than he had ever given up in his 16-year career.
And yet, somehow the Pittsburgh Pirates were still in the game when the right-hander left in the seventh inning.
Burnett yielded 14 hits, and the Pirates’ eight-game winning streak came to an end with a 4-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
Rookie Joe Ross struck out 11 in his third major league start, but the Nationals couldn’t put away Pittsburgh because Burnett usually came up with the right pitch when it mattered most.
Burnett (6-3) allowed four runs, three earned, in 6 2/3 innings. It was a struggle from the outset.
“You can’t give up,” he said. “It was different, but I was still able to get a groundball here and there.”
Washington got a hit in every inning against Burnett but stranded nine and went 4 for 17 with runners in scoring position.
“A lot of time in the stretch, a lot of men on base,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He made pitches when he had to, found ways to get outs.”
Pittsburgh pitchers had a 0.69 ERA during the eight-game run, including a five-hit shutout by Burnett against Philadelphia on Sunday.
In this one, Burnett gave up six hits by the second inning and 10 after five.
“It wasn’t his ‘A’ stuff,” Hurdle said. “The fastball command was in and out, the balls were more elevated tonight. He didn’t have the curveball he’s had from start to finish at times. His will to compete got things done out there on the mound and kept us in the ballgame tonight.”
Playing without star right fielder Bryce Harper, who’s sidelined with a left hamstring strain, the Nationals got at least one hit from every starter in the lineup — including Ross.
More importantly, the 22-year-old Ross (2-1) allowed one run, six hits and a walk in 7 1/3 innings.
“I always thought of myself as being good enough to be up here, but I don’t think I could have imagined doing so well so soon,” Ross said.
Although the 38-year-old Burnett had seven strikeouts to move past Andy Pettitte into 37th place on the career list with 2,451, he was far from sharp.
“The ball was up a little bit for A.J. tonight and we took advantage of it,” Washington manager Matt Williams said. “We had a lot of opportunities out there, which we created, and that’s great.”
Williams talked before the game about having his players be more aggressive to help boost the offense — an approach that became evident in a two-run first inning.
Denard Span led off with a single and took third on a hit-and-run single by Anthony Rendon. With Yunel Escobar batting, Rendon broke for second and reached the base on a run-scoring groundout before Ramos capped the uprising with an RBI double.
That turned out to be all the runs Washington needed to back Ross.
“A good formula for us tonight,” Williams said.
David Carpenter got the final two outs in the eighth inning and Drew Storen worked the ninth for his 20th save.
Wilson Ramos had two hits and two RBIs for the Nationals, who ended a four-game home losing streak.
After Washington jumped ahead in the first inning, Gregory Polanco singled in a run for Pittsburgh in the second. Ramos made it 3-1 with a third-inning RBI single.
Washington went up 4-1 in the seventh with an RBI triple by Danny Espinoza. Polanco left the game after banging into the wall in right field trying to make the catch, but Hurdle said that was merely a precautionary move that enabled him to make a double-switch while removing Burnett.
Pirates: Jung Ho Kang started at 3B and Josh Harrison moved to 2B because Neil Walker was experiencing “stomach discomfort,” according to Hurdle.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (neck) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday.
Pirates: Francisco Liriano (4-5, 2.94 ERA) starts Saturday against the Nationals. He’s 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA in his last five starts.
Nationals: Max Scherzer (7-5, 1.93) looks for an encore to his last outing, a one-hit shutout of Milwaukee with 16 strikeouts.
BABY ON BOARD
Nationals RHP Tanner Roark was placed on the paternity list and RHP Taylor Hill was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse.