Bucs unpack hot bats in rout of Nats
Pirates score five in the sixth one day after 10-run inning
WASHINGTON -- What the Pirates couldn't get done against Nationals rookie starter Ross Detwiler on Monday night they took out on what has been a pitiful Washington bullpen shortly thereafter. Much to the dismay of the 14,549 fans at Nationals Park who have seen one Nationals bullpen collapse after another this season, the Pirates rolled to a 12-7 series-opening win.
Certainly cognizant of the relief situation in Washington -- the Nationals came into Monday's game with a 6.24 bullpen ERA, the worst-such mark in the National League, and 12 blown saves -- the Pirates teed off against the 'pen as soon as they were given the opportunity.
Immediately after the Nationals posted a five-run inning off Pittsburgh starter Ross Ohlendorf to take a 5-3 lead in the fifth, the Pirates followed with a five-run frame of their own.
After the first two hitters reached and were moved over into scoring position on Andy LaRoche's sacrifice bunt, Jack Wilson tied the game with a one-out, two-run double into the left-field corner.
"Obviously the big turning point was Andy getting that bunt down," Wilson said, handing off the praise. "That was the play of the game by far. That was huge."
Still, the night largely belonged to Wilson. The double was one of four hits, which included another double and a triple. The four-hit game was the 13th of Wilson's career and upped his RBI total since returning seven days ago to seven.
"He's been swinging the bat better," manager John Russell said of Wilson, who also made a sensational play in the field on Monday. "I think missing some time, it's taken him a while to get going again. He's a big plus for our club."
After Wilson's sixth-inning hit, his teammates followed suit. An RBI double by pinch-hitter Brandon Moss pushed across the go-ahead run. Delwyn Young, making the spot start for Nyjer Morgan, who continues to recover from a sore left hamstring, followed with an RBI single. Nate McLouth's RBI double with two outs capped the offensive outburst.
"They took the wind out of our sails a little bit when they had that big inning," Wilson said. "If we don't have that inning, I think it's a different game."
It wasn't the 10-run inning the team had on Sunday. But it was certainly game-changing in the same way.
"It was big for us that we came right back," Russell said. "It was nice to respond the way we did."
The offense wasn't finished against that bullpen, either. Another RBI single from Young in the eighth and a three-run ninth, highlighted by a two-run double from pinch-hitter Ramon Vazquez, upped the Nationals' bullpen ERA to 6.68.
For the Pirates, it also helped to further squash the memories of an inept offense during the team's eight-game losing streak at the beginning of the month. In their last three games, the Pirates have averaged 10 runs a game.
The five-run outburst took Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf off the hook for the loss and instead earned him the win, his fifth of the season.
"We've really been swinging the bats well. Everybody has," Ohlendorf said. "It was tough for a while because everybody was struggling at the same time. But I think we're playing really well now."
It wasn't all pretty for Ohlendorf, however, as he struggled to command his offspeed pitches through much of the night.
"[It was] a little uneven," Russell said of Ohlendorf's start. "He never really got the shape of his pitches the way he wanted to. He's got good stuff. Tonight he never really got it the way he wanted to."
Ohlendorf faced the minimum in innings two, three and four, but then ran into trouble in the fifth, when he struggled to get ahead of hitters.
"The first inning I had to battle through, then I kind of felt like I hit a roll after that," Ohlendorf said. "Then the fifth inning, obviously, didn't go well. It was kind of frustrating."
The Nationals quickly erased a three-run deficit to pull ahead, 5-3, by taking advantage of Ohlendorf's inning-long lapse. Ohlendorf fell behind six of the eight hitters he faced in the frame, including Nick Johnson, who connected for a two-out, three-run homer, and Ryan Zimmerman, who followed with a solo shot.
Both home runs cleared the fence easily and both came on pitches -- a fastball to Johnson and a changeup to Zimmerman -- that were high and right down the middle.
"I wish I had pitched a little better," said Ohlendorf, who has now allowed seven homers in eight starts this year. "I just wasn't locating my pitches very well."
Ohlendorf had been staked to an early three-run cushion, all courtesy of Craig Monroe. Earning the start against the left-hander Detwiler, Monroe deposited a three-run homer over the center-field wall. Freddy Sanchez, who singled and moved to second when the Nationals fouled up a pickoff attempt, and McLouth, who was hit near the right elbow with a pitch, scored on Monroe's drive.
The homer was Monroe's third of the season and continued his string of contributions when given the opportunity to start. Though Monroe is 0-for-11 as a pinch-hitter, he has now hit safely in seven of his eight starts this year.
"Every chance that I get, my goal is to do something to help this team," said Monroe, who has 14 RBIs and a .324 average as a starter. "I'm excited to get in there, and hopefully every chance I get, I can help."
The victory has the Pirates now enjoying a modest three-game winning streak, while it also successfully snapped an eight-game losing streak on the road.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.