Instant analysis: Pirates 5, Nats 3

Instant analysis: Pirates 5, Nats 3
May 18, 2012, 2:13 am
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Game in a nutshell: Unable to do anything against Pirates right-hander James McDonald for five innings, the Nationals finally came to life during a three-run sixth that included a two-run single by Ryan Zimmerman and an RBI triple (yes, triple) by Adam LaRoche. Unfortunately, the Nationals were already trailing by four runs at that point because Jordan Zimmermann served up three home runs (two of them to Andrew McCutchen). The Pirates tacked on another run against Craig Stammen in the seventh, then hung on to salvage a two-game series split.

Hitting lowlight: Yes, they produced some runs late. But let's focus on the first five innings of this game, when the Nationals' lineup was hogtied by McDonald. The right-hander retired the first 13 batters he faced, nine via strikeout. Most of those came on breaking balls. Bryce Harper finally broke up the perfect game when he drew a walk with one out in the fifth. But it wasn't until Jesus Flores doubled to open the sixth that McDonald's no-hit bid was quashed. For a Nationals lineup that had finally broken out over the last week, this was a backward step.
Pitching lowlight: Considering he had been credited with a quality start in each of his first seven outings this year, Zimmermann certainly was allowed to have a bit of an off-night. And it's not like the right-hander was completely off; he allowed four runs in six innings. Zimmermann did, however, throw some killer mistake pitches to Rod Barajas and McCutchen, who combined for three homers. Zimmermann also labored in the early innings, ratcheting up his pitch count and giving himself no chance to make it to the seventh or beyond.
Key stat: One night after coming a triple shy of the cycle, LaRoche tripled for only the 10th time in his career. His previous three-bagger came on Aug. 3, 2010 against ... the Nationals.
Up next: Let the Battle of the Beltways begin! For the first time, the Nationals and Orioles will meet with both teams boasting winning records. Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta square off in Friday's 7:05 p.m. interleague series opener.