Pirates 11, Nationals 4
PITTSBURGH (AP)—Pittsburgh Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon put out this message following seven losses in eight games 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.
Lawton’s two-run shot in the seventh followed David Ross’ double off reliever Luis Ayala and gave Pittsburgh a 7-4 lead after Washington had scored on Vinny Castilla’s sacrifice fly in the top of the inning.
Lawton and Daryle Ward added two-run doubles in the eighth off Gary Majewski and Lawton also had one of the Pirates’ three run-scoring grounders. The Pirates had scored only 17 runs in their previous seven games against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and division-leading Nationals.
“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.
Despite losing only their fifth in 22 games, the Nationals stayed three games up on Philadelphia in the NL East as the Phillies lost 8-5 to the Mets.
The Pirates got a short but effective start from Oliver Perez (6-5), who shook off Brad Wilkerson’s leadoff homer in the first to leave leading 5-3 after five innings. Wilkerson’s homer was the 18th allowed by Perez, third-most among NL starters.
Perez also gave up Jose Guillen’s two-run double in the third, but still won his fifth in six decisions and his fourth straight at home.
“I would have liked to see his 100 pitches spread out over seven innings rather than five, and we just have to get him deeper into games,” McClendon said.
Ryan Drese (1-1) couldn’t hold leads of 1-0 and 3-2, giving up five runs and eight hits in three-plus innings in his second Nationals start. He pitched eight shutout innings June 15 to beat the Angels 1-0 after being picked up on waivers from Texas.
Manager Frank Robinson pulled Drese following Jack Wilson’s leadoff double in the fourth, saying, “I didn’t think he was able to stop the tide and we had to see if somebody else could. Any time we scored, they scored, and that’s a tough night.”
The Pirates started their half of the first with singles by Lawton, Bobby Hill and Jason Bay ahead of Ward’s RBI grounder—he drove in three—and Jose Castillo’s run-scoring single. Hill and Bay doubled to start the third and Rob Mackowiak’s run-scoring grounder put the Pirates up 4-3.
Drese was surprised at being lifted so soon—the Nationals trailed 4-3 at the time—especially with right-hander John Patterson not certain if can start Wednesday because of lower back stiffness.
“They hit three or four groundballs that turned into hits … but it’s his decision and that’s part of the game,” Drese said.
“With the teams we’re playing, nothing’s going to come easy and we’ve got to battle for every one,” Bay said. “Maybe we can play off this.”
Hill had two hits, scored twice and reached base four times in his first start since May 4, but was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Wilkerson to end the seventh. McClendon was ejected for the third time this season after arguing Hill beat the throw.
A Pirates’ win Wednesday would give them their sixth consecutive series win at home. … Lawton’s homer was Pittsburgh’s first in five games and his eighth this season. … Perez hasn’t lost in his last five starts at home, with one no-decision. … Washington is 4-4 on a nine-game road trip that ends Wednesday. They started the trip with an 11-1 loss in Texas. … The Pirates hadn’t scored more than five runs since beating Tampa Bay 18-2 on June 11.