WASHINGTON, D.C. — There had been a little bit of everything in Thursday afternoon’s National League game between surging Pittsburgh and slipping Washington.
[cleeng_content id="849877095" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]And then slumping Bryce Harper, the usual lightning rod around whom much of the attention cast toward the Nationals is focused, ended the weather-perfect marathon with a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth that gave Washington a 9-7 win.
Pittsburgh had won the first three games of the series. But Washington had defending Cy Young Award winner Gio Gonzalez pitching against the always enigmatic A.J. Burnett.
It was a sometimes troubled day game after a night game that many night-owl players don’t like to find on the schedule.
Nationals’ manager Davy Johnson was resting several usual starters and he had the ever-valuable Steve Lombardozzi at second base.
Lombardozzi did so many positive things before the long game was even to the middle innings. He singled and then scored in the first inning and through four innings had made two spectacular fielding plays that saved Gonzalez and the Nationals runs.
Before the stadium’s attention turned completely to Harper and his game-ending homer, Lombardozzi was Washinghton’s do-all, be-all performer. He would complete his afternoon with a 3-for-5 performance at the plate with two doubles, two runs scored and an RBI.
Pittsburgh’s defense found problems in the very first inning, eventually commiting three of the most egregious errors ever seen by mortal eyes. Washington scored four runs before thousands in the announced crowd of over 38,000 had settled in after walking to Nationals Stadium from distant parking lots or the Metro’s Orange Line.
Harper had already made a diving catch in the outfield against Pittsburgh’s first batter.
Before long, the three Pittsburgh errors had been combined with four Washington hits to give Gonzalez a 4-0 lead to protect.
The left-hander would confuse Pirate batters often enough to get through four innings and see the Buccos strand seven baserunners. Gonzalez would eventually be gouged by Josh Harrison’s two-run homer and left after 5.2 innings with a 4-3 lead and his 11 strikeouts. In the end, Pittsburgh had 15 batters to strike out.
Before Washington’s lead had gone to 7-3 in the ninth, both managers had been tossed by the umpires. The most common sights were the 11 runners each team left on base, the walks or hit batsmen that kept on coming and the many, many strikeouts.
Trailing by four runs, the Pirates had been deserted by their thousands of followers but rallied for the game-tying runs in the ninth off soft-tossing Rafael Soriano.
Was Pittsburgh going to sweep the four-game, road series? On came the Pirates’ fourth pitcher, Bryan Morris. Morris had been solved for Kurt Suzuki’s one-out single. And then there were two outs when Harper—homerless since July 1—drove a fastball into the centerfield bleachers to send Washington’s losing streak to the nearby Anacostia River and drown Pittsburgh’s winning streak in the same turgid waters.[/cleeng_content]