Jun 21, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT
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.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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