Pedro Alvarez hit his 25th home run of the season, Russell Martin recorded three hits, and rookie Gerrit Cole threw seven innings of two-hit baseball for his fifth Major League win, and the Pittsburgh Pirates (59-39) captured their third straight contest, defeating the Nationals 5-1 in Washington D.C. on Tuesday night.
Cole (5-3; 3.51 ERA) allowed just one run, struck out four batters, walked one, went 2-for-3 at the plate and drove in a run. Bryan Morris and Mark Melancon both pitched one inning of scoreless relief.
The Pirates scored in the second inning on an RBI ground ball by Neil Walker – in his first appearance off the disabled list, a fielding error which plated Martin, and the first of Cole’s two singles. In the eighth frame, Alvarez hit a solo homer and Gaby Sanchez doubled home Martin.
Wilson Ramos homered in the third inning for the only run managed by the Nationals (48-52). Rookie starter Taylor Jordan (0-3; 3.68 ERA) took the defeated as Washington lost for the fifth straight time and the tenth time in twelve games.
Martin (.251) went 3-for-4, while Alvarez joined Cole with two of the Pirates’ ten hits. Washington had just five baserunners – on three hits, a walk and a hit batsman.
The win kept the Pirates a game-and-a-half behind National League Central Division leader St. Louis (60-37), who defeated Philadelphia 4-1, and moved the Bucs to three-and-a-half games ahead of third-place Cincinnati (57-44), who split a twi-night doubleheader with San Francisco.
In the meantime, the Pirates made a series of roster moves on Tuesday. The club placed closer Jason Grilli on the 15-day disabled list with “discomfort” in his right forearm, and called up right-hander Vic Black (1-2; 2.31 ERA), who has recorded 15 saves this year with “AAA” Indianapolis. And, in calling Walker off the disabled list, the Bucs designated veteran infielder Brandon Inge for assignment. Inge had appeared in 50 games this season, and was batting just .181 with one home run and seven RBIs.
In the third game of the four-game series with Washington scheduled for Wednesday night, the Pirates plan to start lefty Francisco Liriano (9-4; 2.44 ERA) against the Nats’ Stephen Strasburg (5-7; 2.97 ERA).