The Nationals went to work early against Pittsburgh’s A.J. Burnett, who entered tonight with the fourth-best ERA in the majors at 1.89.
Denard Span pulled a groundball single to right to lead off the first. Anthony Rendon gave the Nats runners at the corners with no outs on a base knock to right. And Yunel Escobar followed with sharp groundout to Pirates shortstop Jody Mercer, easily scoring Span.
Two batters later, Wilson Ramos delivered his 10th double of the season on a shot to right-center that brought Rendon home.
Rookie Joe Ross struck out former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen on three pitches to end a clean first.
Update: Pittsburgh answered with three singles off Ross in the second to get on the board. Ross battled out of a two-on, one-out jam to end the inning with just one Pirates run crossing the plate.
Tyler Moore and Michael A. Taylor started the bottom of the inning with base hits. After Ross struck out, Span filled the bases with a line drive single to left. But Rendon hit a tailor-made double play ball to Mercer at short that ended the threat.
Ross gave up a leadoff single to second baseman Josh Harrison in the third but then made a spectacular stab on a blistered liner by center fielder Starling Marte. Ross’ easy throw to first doubled up Harrison.
McCutchen whiffed again to close out the inning.
The Nats added another in their side of the frame after Escobar reached on an infield single and then took second on Kang’s throwing error. A sacrifice fly from Clint Robinson advanced Escobar to third, and he scored easily on Ramos’ line drive single to left-center. It was the second RBI on the night for Ramos, who’s 2-for-2.
Burnett has surrendered eight hits in the first three innings.
Update II: In just his third start in the majors, Ross has his first 10-strikeout game. The 22-year-old appears poised and in command while pounding the strike zone with fastballs and sliders.
Ross has allowed one run on five hits with no walks. He has thrown 84 pitches through six innings.
Update III: Robinson singled in the seventh. Two batters later, Danny Espinosa drilled a two-out triple off the wall in right score Robinson from first. Polanco left the game on the play after crashing into the wall while attempting to make the catch.
Espinosa also ended Burnett’s night. The Nats pounded out 14 hits against the veteran right-hander.
Ross started the eighth, but left after giving up a one-out single to right fielder Jose Tabata. Ross was impressive, allowing just one run on six hits with one walk and 11 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. 73 of Ross’ 102 pitches were strikes.
Right-hander David Carpenter followed Ross to the mound and quickly finished off the frame.
Update IV: Drew Storen pitched a perfect ninth for his 20th save.
The Nats beat the Pirates 4-1.