Josiah Gray throws six strong innings, Nationals beat Pirates 7-2
WASHINGTON - Josiah Gray pitched six strong innings, Joey Meneses had four hits and the Washington Nationals finally cooled off the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-2 in a game delayed nearly 2 1/2 hours by rain.
Jeimer Candelario and Victor Robles each had an early two-run double for Washington, which had lost three straight. Luis García delivered a two-run single in the second, and every Nationals starter got at least one hit.
Bryan Reynolds and Tucupita Marcano each had two hits and an RBI for the surprising Pirates, who had won four straight and 11 of 12. Pittsburgh finished April with a 20-9 record.
Gray (2-4) allowed one run on three hits and three walks. He struck out six and threw 105 pitches.
The right-hander retired 10 of his last 11 batters. Over his last five starts, he is 2-2 with a 1.57 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings.
Gray’s biggest challenge came in the third. After a single by Reynolds made it 5-1, two walks loaded the bases with two outs. But then Gray retired Jack Suwinksi on a hard shot to first baseman Dominic Smith, who tossed to Gray covering to end the inning.
“Things could have got out of hand quick if Suwinski got on there,” Gray said. “I beared down and made a pitch. Happy to keep the team in the game and be able to go put up some zeros.”
Added Pirates manager Derek Shelton: “Third inning we made him throw a lot of pitches and Suwinski hit that rocket right at Dominic Smith. That was kind of the difference in the game. If that ball’s a foot or two one way or the other, we’re at least at (5-3, maybe 5-4) and we run his pitch count up even more.”
Andrés Machado worked two scoreless innings for Washington, and Kyle Finnegan allowed a run in the ninth.
Pirates starter Johan Oviedo (2-2) gave up seven runs and nine hits in 2 1/3 innings.
“Definitely didn’t execute my pitches the way I want to,” said Oviedo, who has given up 11 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings over his last two starts. “They took advantage of it.”
The first pitch was pushed back 2 hours, 26 minutes. But after being swept in a doubleheader Saturday, including a 16-1 loss in the nightcap, the Nationals struck quickly.
Candelario’s two-run double gave Washington the lead in the first. García’s two-run single highlighted a three-run second, and Robles made it 7-1 with his two-run double in the third.
“We were being a little bit more aggressive. Pittsburgh man, they pound the zone and we had to be ready,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “The bats were nice, they were crisp this game and we had some good swings.”
The Pirates were looking to sweep their first series ever against the Nationals (2005-present).
Pirates: C Tyler Heineman, designated for assignment Wednesday, was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for INF Vinny Capra. The 26-year-old Capra was assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis. … INF Drew Maggi was sent back to Double-A Altoona.
Nationals: The team selected Machado’s contract from Triple-A Rochester, and LHP Anthony Banda was designated for assignment. Banda had a 6.43 ERA in 10 games with Washington. Machado had a 2.92 ERA and two saves in 10 outings with Rochester.
Pirates: RHP Roansy Contreras (3-1, 3.58 ERA) starts when Pittsburgh begins a three-game series at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. He has allowed three runs in 18 2/3 innings over his last three starts.
Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-1, 3.00) starts the opener of a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Monday. Gore struck out 10 batters in six innings of a win over the Mets last time out.