Pirates 6, Nationals 5

David Driver, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- Andrew McCutchen continued his torrid hitting against Washington with two home runs and four RBIs to help the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Nationals 6-5 on Monday.
The Pirates (58-39) are now 16-9 in the last 25 games, and McCutchen is 44-for-102 in his career against Washington with 13 homers and 26 RBIs in 27 contests. McCutchen has gone deep in four of his last six games and has 14 homers.
Jayson Werth hit a two-run homer of his own in the seventh as the Nationals pulled to within 5-3, but the Pirates got a run back in the eighth as Pedro Alvarez scored on a wild pitch by Drew Storen to make it 6-3.
Werth hit a two-run homer in the ninth to make it 6-5 against closer Jason Grilli. That gave Werth four homers in the last two games.
Grilli left the game with an injury after pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi fouled off his first pitch on a check swing with two outs. With Denard Span (double) on second the Pirates brought in Vin Mazzaro to pitch to Lombardozzi, who grounded to second to end the game.
Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton (2-2) got the win less than 14 month after elbow surgery, while Dan Haren (4-11), who was also on the disabled list earlier this year, took the loss for the Nationals. Morton allowed three runs before turning the game over to the solid Pittsburgh bullpen with two outs in the seventh.
The loss continued a bad day - and post All-Star Game funk - for the Nationals (48-51), who were swept in three games by the Dodgers this past weekend and have lost nine of their last 11.
Earlier Monday hitting coach Rick Eckstein was fired. Washington manager Davey Johnson once proclaimed if the Nationals tried to fire Eckstein the team would also have to fire him. But after Eckstein was canned Monday, Johnson told the media: "I am not quitting."
The jury is out on whether the team, considered a World Series contender in preseason, will fold in its quest to make up ground on the first-place Atlanta Braves. Washington will play its 100th game Tuesday and is three games under .500 for the first time this year. The Nationals hit into three double plays - two by Ryan Zimmerman.
McCutchen hit his two-run homers in his first two at bats against Haren, who had allowed 19 homers prior to Monday to lead the National League.
McCutchen hit a two-run homer in the first after a walk to Jordy Mercer to make it 2-0. He then blasted a shot to left-center in the third with Starling Marte on board to make it 4-0. That was the 13th career homer in 99 at bats against Washington for the Florida native, who fanned in his third trip to the plate in the fifth.
Gaby Sanchez gave the Pirates a 5-0 lead in the fourth on an RBI groundout.
Morton, in his seventh start of the year following Tommy John surgery, did not allow a hit in the first four innings. Adam LaRoche broke up the no-hitter with a leadoff homer in the fifth to make it 5-1.
Haren was lifted after giving up five earned runs in five innings.
Washington began the day with a team batting average of .240 (13th in the league) and an on-base average of .300, just ahead of the Miami Marlins (.289).
NOTES: The Nationals replaced Eckstein with Rick Schu, the minor league hitting coordinator. The move was made by Nationals Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo and was clearly not the idea of manager Johnson, 70. "It was a shocker. Today is arguably the toughest day I have had in baseball," said Johnson, who noted he was traded and released as a player and fired as a manager in his five decades in the game. "I feel like part of me is gone." Eckstein had been the hitting coach since Oct. 24, 2008. "He was a team guy," said shortstop Ian Desmond. "He was a great hitting coach. It is on us," said LaRoche. "This is how it works. Someone has to take the fall." ... 2B Neil Walker, who went on the DL July 9 (retroactive to July 7) with right side soreness, may be activated by the Pirates on Tuesday, according to manager Clint Hurdle. Walker recently completed a rehab appearance with Triple-A Indianapolis and played three days in a row. "We are trying to be aggressive but smart," Hurdle said before Monday's game. Walker had two hits in nine at bats with Indianapolis. "All I want to do is be on the field and help the team win. I think this is behind me and I will be ready to go tomorrow," he said ... Clint Barmes of the Pirates played in his 1,000th game as he started at shortstop.

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