PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Washington Nationals threw out a lineup Friday night that didn't include injured stars Ryan Zimmerman or Bryce Harper but did include four players hitting .192 or lower.
Manager Matt Williams isn't complaining. And after a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates dropped the NL East favorites back to .500 at 24-24, he wasn't exactly panicking either.
"I think you can point to a lot of things that have contribute to our record and it doesn't deter us by any stretch from getting ready to play tomorrow and getting to play the rest of our games," Williams said. "I'm hopeful and I'm enthusiastic about what's to come."
The future surely beats the present after the Nationals dropped their third straight.
Jordan Zimmerman (3-2) labored through six innings to lose for the first time in over a month. Denard Span had two of Washington's eight hits. The Nationals left 11 men on base and went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
Washington had the tying run on first in the ninth with two outs off Pirates closer Jason Grilli, but Ian Desmond's drive to the wall in right field was snagged by a leaping Josh Harrison to end it.
"I had it the whole time," the 5-foot-8 Harrison said with a smile.
Something the Nationals don't at the moment. Washington had at least one baserunner in every inning but the offense struggled to come up a clutch hit.
"We had opportunities," Williams said. "We had the right matchups, right against left, left against right and they just scored one more run than we did."
Charlie Morton (1-6) allowed one run on five hits in 5 2-3 workmanlike innings for his first victory since last September. Pedro Alvarez hit his ninth home run of the season after being dropped from fourth to sixth in the lineup. Ike Davis, who replaced Alvarez as the cleanup hitter, went 2 for 4 with two runs scored.
Grilli, activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, picked up his first save since April 14. The Pirates have won three straight and four of five.
Morton has pitched well at times this season and began the night with the lowest ERA among Pittsburgh starters (3.45) but had not been rewarded with a victory. He wasn't dominant while walking four batters and hitting another but managed to keep Washington's struggling offense in check and the bullpen made it stand up.
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