Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 7/25/13
The Pirates came up short in a crazy game Thursday afternoon, losing on a walk-off homer almost immediately after completing a four run comeback in the ninth inning. The game was full of wild twists and turns and was possibly the strangest one of the year, and while the Pirates showed some incredible fight they weren’t able to pull off a four game sweep in DC. For the second straight start, the Pirates’ defense (which has mostly been very good) let A.J. Burnett down in the first inning. The Bucs were a disaster in the field and made three errors to help the Nats post a quick four-spot. It looked like it might just be a sloppy getaway day loss with the extremely tough Gio Gonzalez pitching well early on for Washington, but Burnett was able to calm things down and give the Pirates a chance. In fact, A.J. actually delivered a very nice outing, making it through seven innings while allowing no more runs (and only one of the four was earned). He even drove in a run with a groundout to get the Bucs on the board in the fourth inning. Burnett nearly got himself in to more trouble in the fifth when he loaded the bases with no outs on a double, single, and HBP. That’s when things started to get wild: he struck out two in a row (the second one prompting the ejection of Nats manager Davey Johnson – the strike zone was enormous all day) and got a groundout to escape the inning. He then apparently motioned for the bullpen to sit down, prompting a heated exchange in the dugout with Clint Hurdle. He ended up staying in the game and tossed two more scoreless innings, and both somewhat downplayed the mess after the game. Hurdle was later ejected arguing an iffy call when Pedro Alvarez was tagged out after a slight turn towards first base following a single. Burnett’s escape from that jam started an enormous momentum shift, because right after that Gaby Sanchez singled and Josh Harrison – yes, Josh Harrison – homered to get the Bucs within a run. All of a sudden a game that was on the verge of a huge blowout was a one-run contest, and Gonzalez was pretty much finished for the day (he left a few batters later). The Pirates couldn’t tie it up, though, and the Nats pulled away again in the bottom of the eighth. Vin Mazzaro had a rough inning and allowed three runs (topped off by an Adam LaRoche triple, past a diving Travis Snider) before Victor Black made his major league debut and cleaned it up. So it looked like the Bucs were done headed to the ninth, down four, but Nats closer Rafael Soriano immediately walked two to start the inning, and then Jordy Mercer doubled. All of a sudden the tying run was at the plate with no outs, just as if Mazzaro would have thrown a scoreless eighth. Andrew McCutchen struck out, but Russell Martin singled to move the line along and get the tying run to first. The Nats brought in a lefty to face Pedro, but he was able to work a walk. Tying run at second base. Pinch hitter Jose Tabata struck out, leaving it all on the shoulders of Harrison, who had already come up big with the homer. With two strikes, Harrison delivered his biggest hit of the season, a liner up the middle that sent Greg Brown (and tons of Pirates fans in DC) into a frenzy. Tied up. And after all that drama and excitement, it ended up being a loss anyway when Bryan Morris allowed a single and a rocket Bryce Harper homer in the bottom of the ninth. This isn’t the first time the Bucs took a loss like this – they fell after Marte’s dramatic homer in Chicago a few weeks ago, and Pedro tied a game in the ninth last year in Colorado that they ended up losing. It was a winnable game for the Pirates, and the awful first inning and a few other mistakes loom large, but it’s easier to swallow losses like this when the team shows incredible heart. It also helps to know they took 3 of 4 in the series and have won 60 of their first 100 games. Nationals 9, Pirates 7 / Box / 2013 Record: 60-40 / Next: Friday, at Marlins, 7:10 Source: FanGraphs
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