Knotted up late in Pittsburgh (Nats win 5-4)

PITTSBURGH - Stephen Strasburg gave the Nationals seven solid if not spectacular innings, and we’re still tied 4-4 heading to the ninth here in Pittsburgh.

The Nats have gone 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and have left 10 on base. Seven of those 10 have been in innings 6-8.

At least they’re getting guys on and giving themselves chances to drive runners in, however. That’s something that was lacking in a handful of the Nats’ recent losses.

They’ve also walked six times and struck out just six times.

Baby steps.

Strasburg’s final line looks like this: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 95 pitches, 65 strikes.

His fastball command wasn’t great, but it was better than his last couple of starts. Strasburg’s changeup was filthy today and he was able to put the two two-run home runs behind him and manage to keep the Nats in the game.

He allowed the leadoff batter to reach in five of the seven innings he worked, which isn’t a great idea.

Like his last start against the Braves, Strasburg’s best inning was his last. He set down the Pirates in order in the seventh, blowing away Starling Marte with three pitches to end his outing.

Tyler Clippard faced the minimum in the eighth, getting a 1-3 double play on a soft line drive back to him to end the inning.

The Nats have scored just one inning from the ninth inning on all season. They’ll need one at some point to have a shot at a win today.

Update: Who would’ve expected Ryan Zimmerman - coming off a hamstring injury and having just been hit by a pitch on the left leg - and Adam LaRoche to pull off a double steal with the game on the line in the ninth inning?

Apparently not Pirates left-hander Tony Watson.

With one out in the ninth, Zimmerman and LaRoche took off from second and first, respectively, on a Watson pitch, and both made it in without a throw. They’ve now combined for 38 career stolen bases over their 19 total major league seasons.

Tyler Moore, who had stranded six runners in his last two at-bats, then took advantage of another golden opportunity with runners in scoring position, lifting a sac fly to deep right. Zimmerman slid in safely ahead of the throw from Travis Snider, and the Nats now have a 5-4 heading to the bottom of the ninth.

Rafael Soriano is in trying to notch his 10th save of the season.

Update II: Soriano got the job done, with an assist (both literally and figuratively) from Roger Bernadina, who cut off Russell Martin’s leadoff liner into the left-center field gap and made a spinning throw to gun Martin at second.

The final two outs were far less dramatic, and Soriano is now 10-for-11 on save chances.

The Nats win 5-4, with the surprise double-steal and Moore’s sac fly combining to push the game-winning run across.

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