Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 5/4/13
The Pirates opened this weekend’s series with a very strong performance as their pitching led them past the Nats on Friday night. A.J. Burnett was excellent – this was his second-best outing of the year (behind the near no-hitter vs. St. Louis). The NL’s strikeout leader punched out nine Nats and worked efficiently, allowing just five hits and one walk. That allowed him to throw seven innings on 96 pitches. AJ had great fastball command on both sides of the plate and used it as his primary weapon to get several strikeouts looking. The Nationals managed one run off him in the fourth when they strung together a walk and two singles, but they didn’t hit many balls hard all night. The Pirate offense came on just two swings of the bat. One was from Andrew McCutchen, who absolutely loves hitting against the Nationals. He entered the game with a 1.412 OPS against them over 101 PA’s, and boosted that figure with a monstrous first inning homer in to the upper LF bleachers. Cutch also had two  more hits on the night, so he’s had two big games over the last few days now. The other big swing came from a surprising source: Jordy Mercer. After Starling Marte singled with two outs in the fifth and stole second despite being picked off, Mercer crushed a Ross Detwiler fastball just ouf of Bryce Harper‘s reach in left for a 2-run homer. Jordy was just called up earlier in the day, of course, and several fans (myself included) have been advocating for him getting more playing time over the likes of Clint Barmes and John McDonald. That should help. Burnett got through seven with the lead and the usual suspects took over from there. Mark Melancon allowed two baserunners (on a hit and an error) but worked out of the jam with a brilliant strikeout of Harper. Jason Grilli tossed a dominant ninth (three K’s) for yet another save. The Nats have been struggling at the plate recently, but the Bucco pitching staff put on a clinic in this one. Great stuff. Notes: Brandon Inge in RF did not go so well. The Nats’ only run could have been prevented if he had been able to make even a decent throw home. Inge also went hitless for the first time as a Pirate. The Nats’ racing Presidents visited PNC, as they do every year, for a relay race with our beloved pierogies. The Presidents were out to a big lead, but the Pirate Parrot distracted William Howard Taft with a giant pizza to allow the pierogies to come back. Great move by the Parrot. Starling Marte stole two bases. He is now tied for the NL lead with nine. Thanks to Marte, the Pirates’ SB success rate is way up this year: 78.26%. Attendance was 26,404 despite the Pens game. It looked like a solid Friday crowd on a beautiful night in the Burgh. Pirates 3, Nationals 1 / Box / 2013 Record: 17-12 / Next: Saturday, vs. Nationals, 4:05 Source: FanGraphs
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