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Nats 9, Pirates 2: Huge first inning sets tone in blowout win

Jun 21, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT

Jun 21, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Yunel Escobar (5) celebrates at home plate after hitting a three run home run during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The day after Max Scherzer etched his name in the history books with his first no-hitter, the Nationals’ lineup wasted no time on Sunday doing something special of their own.

The Nats scored nine runs in the first inning and bounced Pirates’ starter Charlie Morton out of the game after recording just two outs. Morton had pitched 14 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings heading into the afternoon. He started the day with a 1.62 ERA, but saw that mark more than double to 3.97 by the time he was done.

The Nationals scored their first-inning runs to the tune of two infield singles, a two-run homer by Bryce Harper, a three-run homer by Yunel Escobar, an RBI double by Gio Gonzalez and a throwing error by Morton.

Gonzalez had the benefit of an early lead, but didn’t need much help as he turned in a fantastic start of seven scoreless innings with four hits and two walks allowed on just 85 pitches.

The Nationals swept the Pirates for their first three-game series sweep since May 8-10 against the Braves. The Nats are now 37-33 on the season and back to four games over .500 for the first time since June 6.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: When a team scores nine runs in one inning, it makes the decision of what the ‘hitting highlight’ was pretty simple. After all, the first inning for the Nats was the best they’ve had in their 11-year history and it tied the most runs they’ve ever scored in one frame. The last time they put a nine spot up in one inning was May 31, 2010 at the Houston Astros.

The inning actually began with a lineout by Denard Span. But Escobar followed with a single and then Harper homered to the second deck to give the Nats a 2-0 lead. Clint Robinson promptly doubled and came home two batters later on a single by Jose Lobaton. Lobaton then scored on an infield single by Michael Taylor.

Ian Desmond came home on Morton’s error, a pickoff attempt to first base that got past Corey Hart. Taylor would score after that on Gio’s double down the right field line. Span then walked and Escobar homered to left field to score three more and put the Nats up 9-0.

Got all that?

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Gonzalez took the mound on Sunday looking to shake off his shortest outing of the season, a 3 1/3 inning start against the Rays when he allowed five earned runs on eight hits and three walks. Gio was much better this time around and that was evident early, as he carved through the first two innings on just 19 total pitches.

Gonzalez would finish with seven scoreless innings to match his best start of this season. The Nationals’ rotation in the last three games – Joe Ross, Max Scherzer and Gonzalez – has allowed just one run with 25 strikeouts to just three walks in 23 1/3 innings.

Matt Thornton kept the Pirates off the board in the eighth inning to give the Nats’ pitching staff 24 straight scoreless innings overall. That’s a new team record. It was snapped two outs into the ninth, however, when Felipe Rivero allowed a two-run bomb to Hart.

KEY STAT: The Nationals have scored more runs in their last 10 games (63) than they did in their previous 20 (56).

UP NEXT: The Nationals are off on Monday before the Atlanta Braves come to town for a three-game series. Lefty Alex Wood (4-4, 3.40) will start for the Braves, while the Nats have yet to announce their starter. All indications point to Stephen Strasburg making his return from the disabled list for that game, but nothing has been confirmed by the Nats.

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:13 PM

    Nice series win….make that a great series win. Where did all the LoD members go. They disappeared.

    Pitching was exceptional all weekend, timely hitting, great defense. Only complaint is the offense didn’t put another run across the plate after the 1st inning.

  2. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:14 PM

    Good job by Gio today to keep it a big lead, with a one-hitter most of the way.

  3. natsjackinfl - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:14 PM

    See what happens when Gio throws strikes and keeps his pitch count down?

    Granted, a 9 run lead after the 1st helps.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:21 PM

      He wins when he attacks the strike zone. He doesn’t when he goes into nibble-mode.

  4. mnmindc - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:18 PM

    I would also add see how much better our pitchers look with great defense? They can even throw no-hitters when the defense is making the plays behind them!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:24 PM

      Big difference since Matt Williams raised his voice after Thursday’s game with his pronoucement that “things will change”.

      Things have changed.

  5. npb99 - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:23 PM

    Great series conclusion! Sure helped make father’s day even better.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:26 PM

    I hope when the Nats re-do the rotation to re-insert Strasburg that they figure a way to get Joe Cool one more start and at the very least have Scherzer go Saturday or Sunday with extra rest given all the innings and pitches the past 2 starts.

    • texnat1 - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:51 PM

      He has thrown over 100 for three straight starts I believe.

  7. nataddicted - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:42 PM

    Well, this game definitely makes Monday easier to handle. The day off after a stinker is horrible.

    Bryce has 21 homers to get to 100, as we saw in the game thread. I believe that’s a serious possibility if he can stay in the lineup.

    I hope his leg is able to get better. His comments yesterday, “I’m in the lineup” didn’t give me a whole lot of confidence that he’s not gutting it out.

  8. virginiascopist - Jun 21, 2015 at 4:46 PM

    So long, Buccos. Don’t let the broom hit you on the way out — except for you know who.

  9. Eric - Jun 21, 2015 at 5:10 PM

    Any word on Rendon’s status?

  10. scnatsfan - Jun 21, 2015 at 5:27 PM

    Gio threw strikes and kept his pitch count down, when he does that he is darn good.

  11. stoatva - Jun 21, 2015 at 5:34 PM

    Just home from the game. Can I just say how much I loved seeing Ian Desmond laying out then making a great throw in the top of the ninth in a 9-0 game? As frustrated as I get with him, this is the kind of thing that makes you not want to give up on him. Bull headed, maybe, but not an ounce of quit in him.

  12. Section 222 - Jun 21, 2015 at 5:42 PM

    What a great weekend at the park — went to all three games. The place was rockin’. Three straight sellouts, I believe. I’m going to have to do that more often. I was very worried about this series, given how hot the Bucs have been, especially their pitching. But the Nats scored more runs in the first inning today than the Bucs’ opponents had scored during their 8-game winning streak coming in the series (7). And look what happened.

    This sweep came with Robinson and Moore getting starts and some good rips. And there was some fine defense from Desi too. Today he had a true web gem, and handled several sharp grounders for forceouts or DPs.

    Gio followed the gems of Ross and Scherzer with a really nice outing. Yes, he walked a guy to lead off the 3rd, but we were leading 9-0 for goodness sakes. And he ended up throwing 6 scoreless innings. Maybe people should have a little more patience with him.

    I, for one, am going to have patience with Stras too when he returns.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 21, 2015 at 5:56 PM


      • npb99 - Jun 21, 2015 at 6:03 PM

        You’re a better fan than me, 222. I’m on a three game losing streak.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 21, 2015 at 7:40 PM

      I made it in for yesterday’s game only against the advice of those that told me that the game would never happen due to the weather and what do you know, it was almost perfect. I picked a good time to make it to a game only to have my phone battery go to 0%. I got in some early comments and then went ghost.

      Ramos and Scherzer were on point all day then they got to the 27th batter and on 2-2 shook off Ramos twice. Ramos I believe wanted the high inside heater and then signaled for another pitch which was either the change or the curveball then Scherzer chose the slider. Still was amazing baseball and a day I will never forget.

      • Section 222 - Jun 22, 2015 at 12:26 AM

        Glad you made it to the Park Ghost. I wondered why there were only 83 comments on that game post. 😉

        I’m sure you didn’t mean that Scherzer never shook off Ramos until the 2-2 pitch. That’s clearly not true. But yes, he did shake him off twice on the infamous slider that didn’t slide. How could you tell what pitches Ramos called if you were at the game? It’s definitely not visible on the telecast.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 22, 2015 at 8:46 AM

        I moved into the Red Porch in the 7th with my binoculars and was stealing signs. I had the slider and fastball as they were easy based on reputation and velocity on the ribbon board. I was telling the kid next to me the fastball calls and in the 9th Scherzer was at 96 and 97.

        Max got his no-hitter and that’s elusive enough.

        Yes, he shook him off in other at-bats. I’m surprised they didn’t make mention on the telecast as FP likes to guess along.

  13. Candide - Jun 21, 2015 at 5:55 PM

    For those of you who remember watching “Cheers,” here’s Tabata recounting the high point of his career thirty years from now.

    • raleighnat - Jun 21, 2015 at 6:51 PM

      Coach would NEVER have leaned in after 26 up and 26 down though…

  14. manassasnatsfan - Jun 21, 2015 at 9:01 PM

    I don’t know which is better 3 great pitching performance, or 3 days no Nattygoat.

    Close call.

    All LOD MIA

    • Toot D. Blan - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:02 PM

      Remember that old country song “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?”? Same deal here. If you guys keep pointing out whenever Nattygoat or any of your other LOD friends don’t post, then they might as well have been here all along. They’ll be back, mark my words. The only way you’ll ever get rid of them is to ignore them. Quit responding to them, quit calling them out. They won’t go away unless you ignore them. Right now, you’re still playing into their hands and giving them exactly what they want, which is for you to notice them.

      • npb99 - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:47 PM

        A mature voice amongst the posters. We should hound you out of here too!

      • manassasnatsfan - Jun 21, 2015 at 11:29 PM

        Maybe the fact I have no clue what they get out of being negative all the time?
        that seems so sick to me.

        I guess I didn’t take the tight psyche class.

      • Section 222 - Jun 21, 2015 at 11:54 PM

        Yeah, how dare you talk sense in here. Be gone with you!

  15. manassasnatsfan - Jun 21, 2015 at 11:34 PM

    Strasburg needs to follow the lead if Joe Ross?

    Last 3 games 23.1 innings 1 run, 10 hits 3 BB 1 HBP 25 K.

    OK Strasburg pitch in the same lines of the last 3 games. Same goes for JZim and Fister.

  16. Guapo - Jun 22, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    Great job by the Nats fanbase to give Tabata an earful all game at the plate and in the field. Really would have liked to see him take one between the numbers from one of the relievers late.





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