PITTSBURGH -- Kevin Correia didn't lose his chance at becoming the first Pirates pitcher since 2003 to win four games in April. He'll just have to wait another five days to get a second crack at it.
Fresh off his second career complete game, Correia was in trouble for much of his 4 2/3-inning start against the Nationals on Sunday. The Pirates' offense -- despite having myriad chances -- couldn't bail Correia out, either, eventually falling to Washington, 6-3, in front of 9,520 at PNC Park.
While Correia labored through the outing, it was not hard to single out his most costly pitch -- a 2-2 fastball to outfielder Michael Morse in the third. As he went to deliver it, Correia was on the verge of working out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam with only one run scoring. The game was tied at 1.
Morse ended Correia's chance of keeping it that way as soon as he drilled that fastball into the left-field stands. The home run put the Nationals in front, 4-1.
"It was just one of those that got away at the wrong time," Correia said. "I was trying to throw a fastball in and it didn't move like I wanted it to. That guy is dangerous, and I know that. You can't miss over the plate. It just wasn't what I was expecting out of the pitch."
It was also one of three hits Morse had off Correia in as many at-bats.
"I saw a pitch and I hit it," Morse said. "It was a fastball and I got a good part of the barrel and it went out."
Correia (3-2) surrendered 11 hits in all, including another home run, before his day ended. He was also stung twice by opposing pitcher Jason Marquis, who finished with a pair of singles. The first of those two hits sparked Washington's four-run third inning.
Marquis entered the game hitting .286, the highest batting average of anyone in the Nationals' starting lineup.
"I know he's a good hitter," Correia said. "I was pitching him like I would any other lefty in the lineup. I wasn't taking him lightly."
Correia's outing was in sharp contrast to the right-hander's previous start, a nine-inning, 109-pitch effort that featured very little in the way of adversity. His fastball command on Sunday wasn't nearly as sharp and too many pitches were left up in the strike zone.
The start ended up being Correia's shortest this season, no longer giving him the distinction of being the only Pirates pitcher to go at least six innings in each start this year. Correia was also seeking to become the first Pirate since Jeff Suppan to collect four wins in the first month of the season.
"He was battling," manager Clint Hurdle said. "But he was working uphill most of the day. They were able to extend and drive some balls out of the ballpark."
Chances to help Correia out were not few and far between for the Pirates' offense, though the ability to capitalize on opportunities proved challenging. Pittsburgh had a baserunner in every inning but one and tallied 11 hits in all.
Still, that critical base knock consistently eluded the club.
"We felt like we were in the game the whole time today," Andrew McCutchen said. "We just weren't able to get those few extra runs."
McCutchen doubled and scored on Neil Walker's first-inning single to give the Pirates a first-inning run for the second straight day. The hit was the first of three for Walker, who had been hitless in his previous four games.
Pedro Alvarez legged out an infield hit to eventually load the bases in the first, but the inning ended without another run.
Yet for all the baserunners the Pirates enjoyed in Marquis' start, not one crossed home after the Pirates scored twice in the fourth. Pittsburgh had the leadoff batter reach in four of Marquis' six innings, but the club stranded seven against the Washington righty.
"Today was a little bit more of a grind for me than my past games, but there's going to be days like that," Marquis said. "They put up four runs there and it definitely helped out."
Some sloppy defense by Washington gave the Pirates one last chance in the ninth. A pair of errors allowed McCutchen to move to third with one out. He then took off for home as right fielder Jayson Werth caught a fly ball off the bat of Jose Tabata.
Home plate umpire Kerwin Danley called McCutchen out for the final out of the game. McCutchen slammed his helmet and Hurdle expressed intense disagreement with the call. None of that made a difference.
"It didn't matter what I thought," McCutchen said. "I'm out now. [I'm] just trying to play hard."
Hurdle adamantly defended McCutchen's decision to tag up on the play even though McCutchen scoring in that situation meant little given that the deficit was three runs. If the Pirates needed additional baserunners to win the game anyway, why even risk ending the game on such a play?
"You never want to make the last out at home, but sometimes those things are going to happen," Hurdle said. "It's not a perfect world. It's not a perfect game. Our mentality is to play aggressive. That's going to win us more games. We get one there, who knows where it takes us. We're going to send that guy."
Certainly credit was due to Werth, who made a terrific throw to get McCutchen. But the gamble ultimately cost the Pirates a chance from their No. 3 and No. 4 hitters -- who had combined to go 4-for-7 on Sunday -- a chance to potentially tie the game.
"The only reason we're asked that question is because he's out," Hurdle said. "There are probably two guys in the league that can make that throw. He's one of them."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.