Bucs open Nats’ series with victory
By Alan Saunders
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Looking for a spark to get his offense going, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle made a change to the top of his batting order by stacking outfielders Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in the first three spots for the first time this season.
The move paid off quickly, as the trio scored five of Pittsburgh’s six runs in the first two innings in a 6-3 win over the Washington Nationals.
Polanco hit a two-run double in the first inning as the Pirates started the game with four straight hits, and he added a two-run home run in the second.
Polanco’s summer has turned around in a hurry. In the 19 games since his batting average bottomed out at .200 on June 16, he’s hitting .358 with four home runs, four doubles and 11 RBIs.
“He put the work in,” Hurlde said. “He’s gotten to a convicted place in the box.”
Dickerson started the bottom of the first with a single, Marte doubled and they both scored on Polanco’s hit. Colin Moran drove in Polanco with a double one batter later.
In the bottom of the second, Max Moroff walked and Dickerson drove him in with a triple. Polanco homered one out later, his 13th of the season, to make it 6-1.
Ivan Nova (5-6) worked around eight hits — including two solo homers — to hold the Nationals to three runs over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five and did not issue a walk. After allowing a season-high seven earned runs the last time out, his key was keeping a big inning at bay.
“Two homers, whatever. That happens,” Nova said. “It felt like a good game.”
Adam Eaton hit an RBI single in the second to get Washington on the scoreboard. Juan Soto hit his ninth homer of the season in the fifth and Bryce Harper hit his 22nd in the sixth.
Felipe Vazquez pitched the ninth for his 19th save of the season as Pittsburgh won its second straight after a five-game skid.
Jefry Rodriguez (0-1) took 90 pitches to get through five innings, and was charged with all six runs. He walked four and struck out four. After making just one Triple-A appearance before joining the Nationals, Rodriguez feels he’s still adjusting to the level of competition in the majors.
“The biggest difference I’ve notice is just the small mistake here, they make you pay for it,” he said through an interpreter. “In Double-A, sometimes you can get away with it, sometimes you can still get out of it. But here, they let you know.”
Washington has lost 10 of its last 14 and has been plagued by short outings from its starters as of late.
“I think, over the course of a season, things turn around,” manager Dave Martinez said. “The starting pitching will get back in form and they’ll pitch six, seven innings. The bullpen will get the rest that they need.”
The benches cleared in the sixth inning after an altercation at home plate between Eaton and Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli. Eaton was discussing a strike call with home plate umpire Gabe Morales when Cervelli walked away from the plate, which angered Eaton.
“Wasn’t really happy with the call, as you could probably tell,” Eaton said. “He goes to walk away, kind of making it a bigger deal than what it is. I don’t understand why you got to walk away there and kind of isolate us, and now make it a bigger deal than what it is.”
The interruption was brief and Eaton ended the at-bat with a double. He finished the night 3 for 3.
Martinez inscribed his cap with the letters “KR” in memory of longtime Chicago Cubs mental heath consultant Ken Ravizza, who passed away on Sunday. Martinez worked with Ravizza when he coached with Tampa Bay and Chicago.
“He was a good man that touched a lot of people in the game,” Martinez said.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) will make his first rehab start Tuesday with Double-A Harrisburg. … INF Ryan Zimmerman (oblique) will be eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list, but is still working toward going out on a rehab assignment.
Pirates: INF/OF Sean Rodriguez (right quadriceps strain) had his rehab assignment transferred from Triple-A Indianapolis to Single-A Bradenton in order to keep playing through the Triple-A all-star break. He went 1 for 4 in his first game with Bradenton after hitting .261 in Indianapolis.
Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (2-1, 3.81 ERA) is scheduled to start Tuesday. He’s 0-1 with an 11.42 ERA in two starts since coming off the disabled list on July 1.
Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove (3-3, 3.79 ERA) is expected to be activated from the disabled list to start on Tuesday. Musgrove has been out of action since June 29 with an infection in a finger on his throwing hand.