The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 22, 2013

McCutchen homers twice in Pirates win

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCutchen hit a pair of two-run homers to back a solid outing by right-hander Charlie Morton, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the skidding Washington Nationals 6-5 Monday night.

McCutchen connected in the first inning and again in the third to stake the Pirates to a 4-0 lead. The All-Star center fielder has five homers in his past six games and 14 for the season.

Both homers came off Dan Haren (4-11), who’s 0-8 in 11 starts since May 9.

McCutchen is 18 for 35 with five homers and 12 RBIs In his last nine games at Nationals Park. Although he went hitless in his final three at-bats, McCutchen is hitting .431 with 13 home runs and 26 RBIs in 27 career games against Washington.

Morton (2-2) gave up three runs, six hits and a walk in 62/3 innings to earn his first win in five starts. He struck out five.

Jason Grilli entered in the ninth and gave up a two-run homer to Jayson Werth before leaving with an apparent arm injury after getting two outs.

Vin Mazzaro retired Steve Lombardozzi on a grounder with a runner on second to earn his first career save.

Werth homered twice with a man on and Adam LaRoche also connected for the Nationals, who have lost four straight and nine of 11 to fall three games under .500 (48-51) for the first time this season. Werth has four homers in the last two games, but the rest of Washington’s lineup has been sputtering.

Before the game, General Manager Mike Rizzo fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein in an effort to shake up a lackluster offense that ranked 27th in batting average and tied for 28th in runs scored.

The Nationals failed to get the ball out of the infield until the fifth inning, hit into three double plays and went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.

Eckstein’s replacement, Rick Schu, is expected to join the team today. 

The Pirates took the lead for good after three batters went to the plate.

Jordy Mercer drew a one-out walk and McCutchen followed with a drive into the right-field bleachers.

In the third, Haren hit Starling Marte with a pitch and McCutchen homered on a 2-1 pitch.

In the fourth, Pittsburgh used a run-scoring groundout by Gaby Sanchez to make it 5-0.

LaRoche’s 14th home run leading off the fifth was Washington’s first hit, and Werth connected with LaRoche at first base with a man on in the seventh.

Pittsburgh made it 6-3 in the eighth, scoring a run on a wild pitch by Drew Storen.

Notes: Pirates 2B Neil Walker (strained oblique) joined the team Monday after playing three games with Triple-A Indianapolis. Manager Clint Hurdle said Walker will be activated off the disabled list on Tuesday “If he shows us he’s good to move around.” ... Nationals starting pitchers have one win in the last 11 games. ... Pittsburgh’s Clint Barmes played in his 1,000th career game. ... The Pirates have eight homers in their last four games. ... Pittsburgh went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

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