The Pirates’ opened another series against a team that’s just been through a teardown and for a while it looked a lot like their four-game disaster in Wrigley Field. In the end, though, Anthony Alford got a couple big hits and Ke’Bryan Hayes capped a comeback, ninth-inning rally with a walkoff single, and the Pirates beat Washington, 4-3.
On the pitching end, the game got off to an especially bad start for the Bucs. Steven Brault left after two innings with left arm discomfort. Before he left he struggled to throw strikes, although he managed to allow only two runs. Those came in the second on a leadoff walk, a one-out triple by Riley Adams and a two-out single. Cody Ponce replaced Brault and threw three hitless innings.
Against Josh Rogers, a 27-year-old former fringy prospect with just over 30 major league innings, the Pirates couldn’t do much beyond scatter a few unproductive singles here and there. The exceptions came in the third and seventh. Cole Tucker led off the third with a double, and came around on a sacrifice by Ponce and a sacrifice fly by Hayes. Alford led off the seventh with his fifth home run of the year. The Pirates got two on with one out in the fourth and with no outs in the sixth, but came up empty.
Alford’s bomb didn’t tie the score because Sam Howard, who replaced Ponce in the sixth, gave up a one-out home run to Josh Bell. That gave Bell 26 homers, which is more than twice as many as the Pirates have gotten from the first base position all year. So the Pirates were down, 3-2, after seven.
Howard managed a scoreless seventh and Nick Mears got through the eighth without throwing many strikes. The Pirates got nothing in their half of the eighth and Chad Kuhl retired the Nationals in the top of the ninth.
The Nationals went with Patrick Murphy in the ninth. He has no career saves in the majors and only two in the minors, both in 2016. And he didn’t add any in this game. Alford fell behind 0-2, but singled to center and moved up on a wild pitch. Ben Gamel walked on four pitches, then they both moved up on another wild pitch, which happily removed the temptation for Derek Shelton to resort to strategery. Tucker popped up, then Colin Moran batted for Kuhl. The Nationals went to a lefty, Alberto Baldonado, a 28-year-old rookie who was appearing in his fifth major league game. Moran grounded out to short, which brought in the tying run. Then Hayes grounded hard over first for a game-ending single. That was his first career walkoff hit.