|Nationals fall to Pirates 6-5, extending skid to 4|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 22 July 2013 19:07|
``It's a bad day for me,'' he said. ``I'm glad it's over with.''
After the Nationals fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein late Monday afternoon, they dropped a 6-5 decision to the Pittsburgh Pirates to extend their losing streak to four.
Johnson wasn't in favor of the dismissal of Eckstein, a good friend and valued member of his staff. The move was made by general manager Mike Rizzo, who wanted to shake up a team stuck in a season-long offensive funk.
Jayson Werth homered twice and Adam LaRoche also connected for the Nationals, whose five runs matched their total over the previous three games.
``That's really the first time we've had something going in a while,'' Werth said. ``It was a good feeling. Hopefully we can get the job done next time and build on that.''
But Washington failed to get the ball out of the infield until the fifth inning, hit into three double plays and went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position.
Eckstein's replacement, Rick Schu, is expected to join the team Tuesday.
Johnson, meanwhile, hopes Washington's comeback from a 5-0 deficit can have a carry-over effect.
``There's great character on this ballclub. I've said it 100 times,'' Johnson said. ``I've felt a lot of energy tonight, as I do a lot of nights. When you swing the bats good, you pitch good, that's what sets the ball rolling. It's called momentum, and we just are fighting to get a little momentum.''
Werth's two homers gave him four in two games, but the Nationals dropped three games under .500 (48-51) for the first time this season.
Andrew McCutchen hit a pair of two-run homers for the Pirates, who got a solid start from Charlie Morton, but lost closer Jason Grilli to an arm injury in the ninth inning.
Grilli experienced forearm tightness after giving up Werth's second home and getting within an out of his 31st save.
``A definite blow,'' Pirates catcher Russell Martin said. ``Hopefully it's not as severe as it can be and is just something minor.''
Grilli was not made available to the media after the game.
McCutchen connected in the first inning and again in the third to stake the Pirates to a 4-0 lead. The All-Star center fielder has five homers in his last six games and 14 for the season.
Both homers came off Dan Haren (4-11), who's 0-8 in 11 starts since May 9.
McCutchen is 18 for 35 with five homers and 12 RBIs in his last nine games at Nationals Park.
``Every player always has a ballpark he seems to hit at better than other places,'' he said. ``I guess mine happens to be here.''
Although he went hitless in his final three at-bats, McCutchen is hitting .431 with 13 home runs and 26 RBIs in 27 career games against Washington.
Morton (2-2) gave up three runs, six hits and a walk in 6 2-3 innings to earn his first win in five starts. He was lifted after yielding a two-run homer to Werth.
``When you get later in the game, especially if you're pitching well - which I was - you like to finish off the outing on a strong note,'' Morton said. ``Giving up a two-run homer isn't exactly what you want.''
But he got the Pirates in position for the win, and after Grilli departed, Vin Mazzaro retired Steve Lombardozzi on a grounder with a runner on second to earn his first career save.
The Pirates took the lead for good after three batters went to the plate. Jordy Mercer drew a one-out walk and McCutchen followed with a drive into the right-field bleachers.
In the third, Haren hit Starling Marte with a pitch and McCutchen homered on a 2-1 pitch. In the fourth, Pittsburgh used a run-scoring groundout by Gaby Sanchez to make it 5-0.
LaRoche's 14th home run leading off the fifth was Washington's first hit, and Werth connected with LaRoche at first base with a man on in the seventh.
Pittsburgh made it 6-3 in the eighth, scoring a run on a wild pitch by Drew Storen.
NOTES: Pirates 2B Neil Walker (strained oblique) joined the team Monday after playing three games with Triple-A Indianapolis. Hurdle said Walker will be activated off the disabled list on Tuesday ``If he shows us he's good to move around.'' ... Nationals starting pitchers have one win in the last 11 games. ... Pittsburgh's Clint Barmes played in his 1,000th career game. ... The Pirates have eight homers in their last four games. ... Pittsburgh went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.