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The Pirates use a 4-run first inning to beat the Nationals 7-4 and improve to 6-1

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates bounced right back from their first loss and lowest-scoring game of the season, producing a four-run first inning with the help of Rowdy Tellez's two-run single to send them on their way to a 7-4 victory over the Washington Nationals on Thursday.

Connor Joe contributed his first homer of 2024 — a 400-foot, two-run shot in the fifth — and Michael A. Taylor added three hits against his former team. Tellez, Oneil Cruz and Bryan Reynolds each had two hits for the Pirates, who went up 7-1 and then held on.

“Just a lot of people contributing,” manager Derek Shelton said, “which was nice to see.”

Martín Pérez (1-0) pitched 6 2/3 innings on his 33rd birthday, allowing two runs and six hits while striking out six.

“We've just got to keep doing what we've been doing,” Pérez said.

The Pirates completed their season-opening road trip with a 6-1 record and have scored at least six runs in all but one game: their 5-3 setback at Nationals Park on Wednesday.

“It feels like we’ve been on the road for a long time,” said Shelton, whose club's home opener comes Friday against the Baltimore Orioles.

After a 70-minute rain delay before Thursday's first pitch, the Pirates jumped all over 2023 NL All-Star Josiah Gray (0-2), who exited after 4 1/3 innings, six runs, seven hits and three walks. Nationals pitching coach Jim Hickey used a mound visit to try to settle down Gray after 12 of his first 22 pitches were balls; the righty needed 33 throws to get the initial three outs.

“Honestly, I’m embarrassed to come out here and do that for the guys. It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t sit right with me," said Gray, whose ERA actually dropped to 14.04 after his second rough outing. "I know that I deserve better. They deserve better.”

Eventually, the Nationals got within three runs before an announced crowd of just 11,135. But Aroldis Chapman came on to get the last out of the eighth with two runners aboard, and David Bednar pitched the ninth to become the fifth Pirates reliever with a save this season.

“It speaks to the depth of our bullpen and it’s something that we’ve talked about, we've preached,” Shelton said. “We want to build depth throughout our group.”

CJ Abrams hit his second homer of the year, and Jesse Winker, Trey Lipscomb and Luis García Jr. also drove in runs for Washington, which is 2-4.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: Put CF Victor Robles on the 10-day injured list with a strained left hamstring. He got an MRI exam Thursday, a day after getting hurt and leaving for a pinch runner in the second inning. To take his spot on the roster, Washington brought up OF Jacob Young from Triple-A Rochester and started him in center field, batting ninth in the lineup. He went 0 for 4. Young said his wife was behind the wheel for the 4 a.m.-to-10 a.m. drive from New York to Washington.

UP NEXT

Pirates: Rookie RHP Jared Jones (1-0, 4.76 ERA) will make his second career start on Friday against Baltimore. The 22-year-old Jones said he expects his cheering section to include his father, stepmother, sister, grandparents and aunts and uncles.

Nationals: Open a three-game series Friday night against old friend Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies. LHP Patrick Corbin (0-0, 8.31 ERA) takes the mound for Washington against RHP Aaron Nola (0-1, 14.54).

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB