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The highlight of the Nationals' game on Friday night came in the third inning, when Danny Espinosa hit his first career homer (in his second big-league game) and put Washington up 1-0 over the Pirates. From there, there wasn't much for the Nationals to be excited about.
Oh, they scored a few runs, continuing their offensive resurgence over the last week. They have scored 55 runs in their last eight games, but like Wednesday's 16-10 loss to the Marlins, the Nationals' late rally only dressed up a blowout loss.
They fell 8-5 to the Pirates, with Livan Hernandez giving up eight runs in 4 1/3 innings. It tied Hernandez's shortest outing of the year, and was the second time in three starts he's come out that early.
Johnny and Phil talk with John McLaren about the Nats' 8-5 loss to Pittsburgh
Espinosa went 2-for-4 with his homer, an opposite-field shot off Zach Duke, and drove in another run on a double. But the Nationals never had much of a chance after Hernandez put them in an 8-1 hole.
"He's got such a great feel for pitching," said bench coach John McLaren, who filled in for the suspended Jim Riggleman. "I've seen him too many times. I know he's going to pitch around hitters and go to somebody he wants to get. And, the only problem is, sometimes the guy you want to get, he might walk him, or get a base hit or make an error, whatever it is. The stats are not good tonight. He pitched his way out of jams. He
always does. That's just his style of pitching."
The Nationals got 3 2/3 scoreless innings from their bullpen. Five players in the game were on the other team's roster last year; four of them (Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett for the Nationals, Joel Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge for the Pirates) were traded for each other. And Wil Ledezma, who was on the Nationals' Opening Day roster last year, recorded one out.
Hanrahan got his third save of the year, his first against the Nationals.
"It's always good to get a save," Hanrahan said. "I still know a lot of those guys over there and I'm sure that I'm going to get some messages from them. It's good to get the win, and we needed that win coming into this homestand."
Kristen Hudak contributed reporting from Pittsburgh