Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon put out this message after watching his team drop seven of eight to contending or first-place teams: No matter how difficult the opposition or the situation, it’s time to start scoring.
Somebody must have listened.
Matt Lawton homered and drove in five runs and the Pirates, scoring six runs in the final two innings, beat the Nationals 11-4 Tuesday for only their second victory since June 11. It marked the first time since that win the team scored more than five runs. The Pirates had only scored 17 runs in their previous seven games.
“We ran into a buzz saw the last week where we didn’t pitch well, play well or hit well, so it was good to have this kind of game,” Lawton said.
Just the kind of game that, a few hours before, McClendon said the Pirates badly needed after a challenging stretch against pitchers such as Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, Matt Clement and Livan Hernandez. They went 1-5 on a weeklong trip to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, then lost to the Nationals’ Hernandez 7-4 on Monday night.
“The pitching we’ve been seeing was pretty good, and we came back from the road humbled, so it was nice to see the guys break out a little bit,” McClendon said.
The three-game series against the Nationals represents the Pirates’ only home games from June 13 until July 4. They play this weekend in St. Louis, where they have dropped 12 consecutive games.
Washington, which is 4-4 on its nine-game road trip, has lost just five of its last 22 and owns a three-game lead atop the NL East.