’Pen lets Bucs down again

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Howie Kendrick is quickly making up for lost time.

Limited to only five games last season because of a torn Achilles and slowed this spring by a hamstring injury, the 35-year-old Kendrick is off to a fast start for the Washington Nationals.

He’s 6 for 10, including a home run Saturday that sent the Nationals over the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2.

After Adam Eaton’s two-out, two-strike homer in the eighth inning tied it, Kendrick connected on the next pitch.

“Following him up right there I was just like all right I want to get a pinch that I can get a drive,” Kendrick said. “Wasn’t necessarily thinking trying to hit a homer or anything like that. It just happened that way.”

Kendrick started his second game of the season and his shot off Pirates reliever Richard Rodriguez (0-1) was his second homer of the year. The second baseman is now in his 14th season.

Eaton finished with three hits as the Nationals denied Pittsburgh its first series win in Washington since 2013. The teams finish the three-game set on Sunday.

Wander Suero (1-0) pitched a perfect eighth and Sean Doolittle escaped his own first-and-second, one-out jam for his first save.

Melky Cabrera hit his first home run of the season, tagging Anibal Sanchez to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead in the fifth.

Pirates starter Chris Archer struck out nine and allowed one run in seven innings in his third start of the season. He also singled in the seventh for his first hit of the season.

“It’s frustrating,” Archer said. “We played a great game. Our margin for error is small.”

Archer pitched while appealing his five-game suspension from Major League Baseball for setting off a bench-clearing fracas at PNC Park last Sunday. He threw a fastball behind Cincinnati’s Derek Dietrich, who stood and admired a long home run in his previous at-bat.

There were five ejections, but Archer wasn’t tossed. He can keep playing until there’s a final ruling on his appeal.

Sanchez lasted seven innings, allowing two runs off seven hits while striking out two. He has yet to win in three starts since joining Washington from Atlanta in the offseason as a free agent.

Nationals record

Anthony Rendon doubled to break a Nationals record with at least one-extra base hit in 10 straight games.

Third-base switch

Colin Moran earned the start at third base for Pittsburgh over Jung Ho Kang a day after hitting the go-ahead home run in the 10th inning as a pinch-hitter.

Kang entered Saturday batting just .108 (4 for 37) in 12 games. He then struck out in the ninth with two runners on.

He’s trying to figure out how to do well again,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I’m anticipating Moran will play again tomorrow and that will give (Kang) a three- game break to work on some things in extended work time.

Moran went 1 for 4 with an RBI.

Who’s next?

Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (0-2, 3.00 ERA) has a 3.50 ERA in three career appearances against the Nationals. Pittsburgh’s opening day starter lasted just two innings in his last appearance on Monday in Chicago.

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