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Taylor's homer, 3 RBIs help Nationals beat Pirates 9-3


Taylor's homer, 3 RBIs help Nationals beat Pirates 9-3

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Ian Desmond is doing his best to put a miserable first half behind him.

The shortstop homered for the third straight game, while rookie center fielder Michael Taylor had a home run and three RBIs and Gio Gonzalez won his fourth straight decision to lead the Washington Nationals to a 9-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.

Desmond's two-run shot off rookie reliever Deolis Guerra in the seventh gave Washington breathing room by increasing its lead to 7-3.

He has 11 homers and is 10-for-19 during a six-game hitting streak, lifting his batting average to .222. He went hitless in 16 at bats in his previous five games.

"He's still the same Ian Desmond I've known since high school," said Gonzalez, who grew up in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area while Desmond hails from across the state in Sarasota.

Taylor capped the scoring with a two-run homer, his seventh, in the eighth inning off rookie Arquimedes Caminero. He was 4 for 5.

"I like this ballpark," Taylor said of PNC Park. "There's a lot of room to run around here. It's a fun place to play."

Gonzalez (8-4) lasted just five-plus innings and gave up three runs, one earned, and five hits with no walks and five strikeouts. Yet the left-hander stayed unbeaten in his last five starts and improved to 4-0 lifetime against the Pirates.

"The training staff really helped me out, giving me fluids and keeping me afloat," Gonzalez said. "Then the rest of guys really picked me, playing great defense and getting big hits from one through eight in the order."

RELATED: Nats promote top prospect Giolito to Class AA

The Nationals' Yunel Escobar had three hits, including two doubles, after sitting out the previous two games with a sore left wrist.

A.J. Burnett (8-4) had another rocky outing. He was tagged for five runs and 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings with no walks and eight strikeouts. Burnett beat the Royals on Monday at Kansas City despite allowing six runs in six innings.

"Yeah, I got strikeouts but strikeouts don't win ballgames," Burnett said. "You've got to keep the ball in the lanes and in the corners, and I left too many balls over the middle, especially to left-handers."

The Nationals needed the late homers after the Pirates scored three runs in the sixth inning to knock Gonzalez from the game and draw to 5-3 on RBI singles by Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Cervelli, who had two hits.

Anthony Rendon's sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth had given the Nationals a 5-0 lead.

Desmond scored the game's first run in the second inning on a wild pitch, then Gonzalez and Taylor hit RBI singles in a two-run third.

In the fifth, Bryce Harper doubled and scored on a single by Clint Robinson to push the lead to 4-0. Harper extended his streak of reaching base to 22 straight games.


Nationals: Rendon was activated from the disabled list after missing 25 games with a left quadriceps strain and went 0-for-4 with the sac fly.

Pirates: INF Justin Sellers, who has been out all season with a sore right Achilles tendon, had his rehab assignment transferred to Triple-A Indianapolis from the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.


Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez was not in the lineup despite homering in each of the first two games of the series, though he enter the game in the sixth inning as part of a double switch. He singled off Gonzalez after having been 0-for-6 with four strikeouts against him.


Right-hander Lucas Giolito, considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, was promoted by the Nationals to Double-A Harrisburg. The 21-year-old went 3-5 with a 2.71 ERA in 13 games with Single-A Potomac.

UP NEXT: Gerrit Cole (13-4, 2.31), who leads the major leagues in wins, will try to become the first Pirates pitcher with 14 victories before the end of July since Dock Ellis in 1971. He faces rookie Joe Ross (2-2, 2.70).

MORE BASEBALL: Hamels throws no-hitter against possible trade suitor

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Ryan Zimmerman is ready to rejoin Nationals, but in what capacity?

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Ryan Zimmerman is ready to rejoin Nationals, but in what capacity?

Key for Ryan Zimmerman was the simplistic act of staying on his grumpy feet for nine innings. The idea had been elusive for weeks. Zimmerman last played a full baseball game on April 27. Plantar fasciitis sent him to this fate, and each time he progressed, an ache pulled him back.

Monday, Zimmerman played nine innings for Double-A Harrisburg. He picked up two hits, but more vital was the ability to play a full game his third time on the field in four days. Zimmerman played Friday and Saturday before taking Sunday off. Tuesday becomes decision day: is Zimmerman ready to join the team Wednesday or does he have to wait? He'll wait at least another day since he is in the Senators' lineup as the designated hitter Tuesday.

There's a benefit to waiting. Washington goes to Detroit for interleague play this weekend. That affords them a chance to use the designated hitter and a window to play both Howie Kendrick and Zimmerman throughout the series without greatly taxing either.

Bringing Zimmerman back sooner also has the benefit of putting his glove on the field and expanding bench options for manager Davey Martinez. The veteran can be protected in a rotation at first base. The Nationals have Brian Dozier hitting and fielding well. Kendrick hits line drives whenever he is in the lineup. Matt Adams provides a powerful matchup option. This is how things were supposed to work from the start of the season. But, they did not come to order until late June.

Zimmerman's injury has also decided the fate of his $18 million club option for next season. It has graduated from unlikely to no chance. Though, he appears open to coming back at a much lower price. Zimmerman's body has forced him into a position of being a part-time player only, at this stage. He said last week his body "felt great" outside of the plantar fasciitis issue in his foot. Don't be surprised if he and the Nationals work something out for one more season.

For now, the club has to decide when Zimmerman will be back on the field. If he felt good Tuesday following another rehabilitation game, he could be ready as soon as Wednesday. Which prompts another decision: Do they release spirit animal Gerardo Parra to make space? Would they entertain a change for Michael A. Taylor? Something has to give if Zimmerman is finally ready.


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Nationals calling up reliever Jonny Venters

Harrisburg Senators/Sam Getty

Nationals calling up reliever Jonny Venters

The Nationals are calling up veteran left-handed reliever Jonny Venters to join the team Tuesday, according to a source.

Venters, 34, has undergone three Tommy John surgeries in between his five seasons in the major leagues. Venters entered the league in 2010 and was dominant before his first ulnar collateral ligament tear. Washington signed him May 29, then sent him to Double-A Harrisburg. Venters put together a 1.29 ERA in seven innings with the Senators.

Also joining the bullpen Tuesday is veteran Fernando Rodney. Calling up both will force the Nationals to make a 25-man roster move. Washington is likely to send down Kyle McGowin. It also needs to open a 40-man roster spot. Transferring reliever Austen Williams to the 60-day disabled list would accomplish that.

Washington's maligned bullpen comes into play Tuesday with the major league's second-worst ERA after spending the majority of the season as the league's worst  bullpen.

Venters' promotion was first reported by 106.7 The Fan.