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Pirates blow 3-run lead, lose 4-3 to Nationals

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 16, 2014 at 11:02 pm •  Published: August 16, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Pirates lefty reliever Tony Watson is not accustomed to giving up homers to left-handed batters.

He hadn't allowed one since 2012.

That's right: Zero homers off Watson by guys swinging from the left side in a total of 161 at-bats in 2013 and 2014 combined. Until Pittsburgh's 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals on Saturday night, that is.

That's when Watson gave up all of a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning, capped by left-handed hitter Adam LaRoche's game-tying two-run homer with two outs. And then another Pirates lefty, Justin Wilson (3-3), walked Bryce Harper leading off the ninth, threw a wild pitch that put the winning run at second base, and served up Wilson Ramos' RBI ground-rule double to end Pittsburgh's fourth loss in a row.

"It's never good for the club — especially the position we're in right now, pushing hard," Watson said. "It's 'go time.'"

The Pirates' recent skid dropped them to third place in the NL Central, behind the Brewers and Cardinals.

Watson began his appearance by walking rookie pinch-hitter Michael Taylor, then giving up singles to Denard Span and Kevin Frandsen that made it 3-1. After a double play, Watson faced LaRoche, who drove a 1-0 pitch into the home bullpen. Reliever Drew Storen, who was warming up, caught the ball on the fly.

Watson said he followed the same pitch sequence against LaRoche on Saturday as he had Friday.

"Yeah," Watson acknowledged, "it was dumb."

In the ninth, with Wilson in, Bryce Harper checked his swing at a 3-1 pitch and went about halfway down the first-base line, figuring he had a leadoff walk. But plate umpire Mark Wegner had called the pitch a strike. Harper eventually paused, turned around, got back in the batter's box — and walked on the next pitch.

After Harper took second on a wild pitch, Ramos hit a ball that sailed over right fielder Gregory Polanco's head and bounced into the home bullpen to win it.

Helped, too, that Washington got four innings of scoreless relief after starter Gio Gonzalez allowed three runs and departed after 102 pitches in five innings.

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