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

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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.

TRAINER'S ROOM

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.

ON THE BENCH

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.

PROSPECT NEWS

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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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

On Monday, in the middle of their game with the Yankees, Mike Rizzo did a very Mike Rizzo thing and added another strong arm to the Nationals' bullpen well before the trade deadline.

In a trade with the Kansas City Royals, the Nats dealt prospects Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel for relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera, who's in his eighth season, has walked only two batters in the last 27 games and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

"We just thought that it was a good idea to strike early," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We thought the closer to the deadline we get, the more competition we'll have for Kelvin [Herrera]. We were able to strike a deal with Dayton Moore quickly and [we] couldn't be happier about it."

But Mike Rizzo didn't just come across Herrera by chance, he's had his sights on him for years.

"He was one of the guys that we kind of kicked the tires on [last year] and obviously the price for Kelvin at that time with a year and a half of control was a lot different than it was with four and a half months of control."

"We did have our eyes on him for years. He's been a great reliever for years. He's one of the guys we talked about when we talked about improving our bullpen." 

Herrera has spent all of his eight seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, even winning a World Series. Trades can bring both joy and angst, but Rizzo knows Herrera is excited to get back to playing meaningful baseball.

"This guy is such a competitor; World Series tested and playoff tested. He's happy to be playing meaningful games. He talked about what it takes to win a World Series, and you know, our guys were all ears. I think he's really thankful for getting the opportunity to get after it again and get another ring."

"At the same time, you know, it's hard for those old relationship to die and to move on, but he was very excited about being with us. I spoke to him after we made the trade and he [was] a little shocked, but really fired up about it. And when he got to the clubhouse, [he] met some of his old teammates - Timmy Collins and Ryan Madson -  and was welcome with open arms by not only the bullpen guys but everyone on the team." 

Herrera will join Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, and Ryan Madson to make about as deep of a bullpen as any in baseball right now.

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Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

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USA TODAY Sports

Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

WASHINGTON -- Presented with identical opportunities to ring up a big inning, the Washington Nationals took full advantage and Baltimore Orioles squandered the chance.

That goes a long way toward explaining why the Nationals are a contender and the Orioles own the worst record in the big leagues.

Trea Turner went 4 for 4 with a homer , Anthony Rendon drove in three runs and Washington extended its recent domination of the Orioles with a 9-7 victory Tuesday night.

The game was essentially decided in the fifth inning, which began with Baltimore leading 4-1.

In the top half, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs and scored only one run -- when Manny Machado hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Washington loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half and batted around, scoring four runs on four hits and a pair of walks. Adam Eaton contributed a two-run single, Rendon hit a sacrifice fly and Bryce Harper chased starter David Hess with an RBI double.

"They did a lot better job cashing in their bases loaded, nobody out situation than we did," Orioles manager Buck Showalter conceded.

For the game, Baltimore was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals were 5 for 10.

"This team is starting to become relentless," manager Dave Martinez said. "They kept pounding and pounding and pounding, had a couple of big innings there and scored some runs."

The Nationals trailed 6-5 before getting six hits in a four-run seventh. Rendon delivered a two-run double off Tanner Scott (0-1) that made it 7-6, and Turner capped his four-hit night with a double.

Both teams noted that more than a couple of Washington's hits were bloopers and seeing-eye grounders, but the Nationals certainly weren't about to apologize.

"I feel like all year we've been hitting balls right at people," Turner said, "so it's nice to get a bunch of those in one game and come out with a win."

Washington has won six straight over its neighboring interleague rival, including four games this season by a combined 20-8.

Pitching in his second big league game, Nationals starter Jefry Rodriguez gave up five runs, four hits and four walks in five innings.

Justin Miller (5-0) pitched two innings of relief, newcomer Kelvin Herrera worked a perfect eighth and Sean Doolittle gave up a solo home run to Joey Rickard while earning his 19th save.

Jace Peterson and Trey Mancini each hit two-run homers for the Orioles, who have lost 16 of 19.

This one can be blamed on an all-too-telling fifth inning.

"It's just one of those things where if they got hits they seemed to have found holes," Showalter said. "They hit some balls hard, too."

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