Cole gets knocked around

By Ben Standig

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Tanner Roark pitched eight-plus innings of five-hit ball and had an RBI single during a three-run fourth as the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-0 on Saturday night.

Roark (9-5) allowed five singles with one walk and five strikeouts in his longest start of the season. He started the ninth but left after allowing a single and hitting a batter before the sellout crowd. He

Anthony Rendon homered and drove in two runs. Second baseman Stephen Drew had three doubles and one RBI in place of NL batting leader Daniel Murphy. The Nationals have won five straight games.

Washington spoiled the return of Gerrit Cole (5-5) from the 15-day disabled list. The 2015 All-Star allowed five runs – four earned – and seven hits over four innings.

Cole’s first major league appearance since June 10 was delayed 71 minutes by rain. Washington wasted little time scoring with single runs in the first and second innings plus three in the fourth for a 5-0 lead.

Roark rarely faced trouble in recording his third win in four starts. The consistent right-hander pitched at least seven innings for the fifth straight outing.

Andrew McCutchen’s second hit loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth, but reliever Blake Treinen finished the shutout.

The Pirates have lost two straight to the Nationals and three in a row after a 9-1 stretch.

Pittsburgh had three total runners reach in the second inning, but Roark deftly avoided damage with two groundouts including a double play on a ball hit by Sean Rodriguez.

Rendon’s RBI single put Washington up 1-0 in the first. Back-to-back doubles by Drew and Danny Espinosa in the second added another run off Cole, a 19-game winner last season. He returned after missing several weeks with a right triceps strain. Cole entered Saturday 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in three career starts against the Nationals.

Murphy has missed consecutive games with left hamstring tightness after suffering an injury in Tuesday’s MLB All-Star game.

Health report

Pirates: RF Gregory Polanco will either return to the lineup by Tuesday or be placed on the disabled list with left hamstring tightness, manager Clint Hurdle said. Polanco, out since July 8, is not expected to play today, but Hurdle stated, “we’re optimistic” with his progress.

Nationals: Manager Dusty Baker said he expects Murphy in today’s lineup, but playing first base “because it’s less grueling and twisting than at second base.”

Up next

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 6.08 ERA) allowed four runs in 21/3 innings for a no-decision against the Cubs in his previous start on July 10.

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (10-6, 3.03) makes his first start since appearing in the All-Star game. He threw a no-hitter against Pittsburgh on June 20, 2015.