A back-and-forth Sunday afternoon contest that totaled over four hours of baseball culminated with a 10-7 Washington Nationals victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates held a 7-5 lead going into the eighth inning with set-up man Felipe Rivero (1-5) on the mound against his former team.
From the beginning, Rivero couldn’t impose his will against those he previously called his teammates.
Everything went down hill after a leadoff walk to Stephen Drew, which brought up pinch-hitter Jayson Werth. Werth hit a 2-1 pitch over the middle of the plate for a home run, a low one that just cleared the centerfield wall. It was his 21st homer of the season.
Trea Turner then added a single and advanced on a bunt by Ben Revere. Then, when Wilmer Difo singled, it brought out Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The mound visit didn’t pay off, however, as Chris Heisey hit an RBI single to give the Nationals the lead for good and ending Rivero’s afternoon — but not his final line.
That final line changed quite a bit when fellow reliever Phil Coke entered. Coke started with an intentional walk to face Clint Robinson, who singled in another run. A fifth and final run scored when pinch-hitter Pedro Severino walked with the bases loaded and a run walked home.
All five eighth-inning runs were charged to Rivero.
But what this game will likely be remembered for was a third-inning benches clearing brawl.
Bryce Harper led off the top half of the third inning with a triple, and Pittsburgh third baseman Jung Ho Kang appeared to fake tag Harper, forcing him to slide rather awkwardly, resulting in an injury.
The Nationals waited for around a minute before a trainer and manager Dusty Baker came out of the dugout, prompting boos from Pirates fans. Harper ended up staying in the game, but Baker said something to home plate umpire Jordan Baker before the manager returned to the dugout.
When Kang came to the plate in the bottom half of the third inning, Nationals starter A.J. Cole threw behind Kang. The Pirates bench took exception — things got heated. Werth, who hadn’t yet come into the game and was just on the bench, came out for the Nationals, and Sean Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli were the most vocal Pirates.
“First of all, I meant no harm during the injury delay play,” Kang said. “I tried to hold the runner at third base. That’s all I tried to do. I didn’t expect to be thrown at, to be honest.Æ
With chaos going on the field, both bullpens ran in. Rodriguez had to be pulled away from the fight by Gerrit Cole and David Freese.
A.J. Cole was immediately ejected after the pitch, and Rodriguez was tossed after the scuffle.
“If I had to say anything, I would ask Dusty if, one, he did something like that in his career and, two, would he take a player out on his team for doing that and keep a player from taking an extra base,” Kang said. “The retaliation is poorly analyzed the way they took it. Retaliation happens, but it’s normally below the shoulders. Fine. You can throw it at my knees, you can throw it at my thighs. When you (throw behind someone’s head like) that all bets are off, you’re talking about somebody’s livelihood now.”
The game was an ugly one from the start, and Pirates starter Tyler Glasnow lasted all of three innings.
He struggled from the beginning, allowing a leadoff single and stolen base to Revere and then walking Difo. With Harper at the plate, both runners successfully accomplished a double steal, which helped lead to a three-run first inning.
The Pirates got some runs on the board when Cole walked the first three hitters he faced, giving the Pirates three runs in their half of the bottom inning.
After a few more lead changes (Washington added a run in the third inning, Pittsburgh added two runs in the fourth inning, and the Nationals scored a run in the fifth the tie up the game), Kang hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning off Koda Glover. It looked like the third baseman had given his team a lead they would hold onto.
Instead, the Nationals plated five runs in that eighth inning, including the Werth home run that drew boos from the Pirates fans who thought Werth should have been ejected for his role in the third-inning brawl.
In the game, both teams combined to use 45 players, which tied the National League record for most players used in a nine-inning game. They were one shy of the record: 46.
Additionally, the 17 pitchers used (nine by Washington, eight by Pittsburgh) meant the teams were one shy of the Major League record set in September 2007 when the Pirates played the St. Louis Cardinals and October 2015 when the Los Angeles Angels met the Texas Rangers.
Nationals closer Mark Melancon earned the save, his 43rd of the season, against his former team.
The Pirates will now wrap up their regular-season home schedule with a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs. Pittsburgh’s Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73 ERA) will face Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks (15-8, 2.06 ERA). Kuhl is 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs.
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