Back-to-basics Pirates seek another win over Nats

Field Level Media

August 21, 2019 at 6:43 am.

Perhaps the Pittsburgh Pirates should make it a regular practice to use their pregame time on the field to revisit spring training.

After all, it seemed to work Tuesday before their 4-1 win over the visiting Washington Nationals.

The Pirates had been struggling mightily — scoring one run during a three-game losing streak, winning just seven times in their first 35 games after the All-Star break — before they changed things up Tuesday, resorting to going back to basics.

Before Tuesday’s game, the Pirates ran full-team fundamental fielding drills with crowd noise pumped over the sound system at PNC Park. Then they quieted the red-hot Nationals, even with Pirates starter Chris Archer exiting after one inning because of a shoulder problem.

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle called it “one of the best team victories we’ve had all year.”

As a reward, the Pirates get to face Washington two more times in the series, not knowing whether the Nationals’ offense will stay quiet or revert to its recent hot streak.

Before Tuesday, Washington had won two games in a row — hitting 12 homers — and seven of eight. The Nationals had scored 62 runs in their previous five games.

Manager Dave Martinez couldn’t account for that any more than he could say why the bats went cold Tuesday, finishing with six hits.

“It’s really hard to explain,” Martinez said.

Washington right fielder Adam Eaton, who had homered in three straight games and four of five before going 1-for-2 with a walk and a run Tuesday, challenged anyone to figure it out.

“Write a book on it. You’ll become a millionaire,” Eaton said.

On Wednesday, Washington left-hander Patrick Corbin (9-5, 3.34 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander Joe Musgrove (8-11, 4.59 ERA).

Corbin has a 4.15 ERA and no decisions, with 21 strikeouts and eight walks, in August. In his latest start, Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers, he pitched six innings, giving up one run and seven hits with eight strikeouts and four walks in a 2-1 Washington win.

He needed 110 pitches to get through the six innings and had to rely heavily on his slider, but half of his strikeouts produced third outs.

“He kept us in the ballgame, pitched well, got out of some jams,” Martinez said. “Pitch count got up there in the sixth inning, but he gave us what we need.

“He’s very poised, really. Nothing really rattles him out there. He knows when to step off, he knows when to take deep breaths. He knows when to slow down. …

“(He’s) a gamer. We talk about the (Max) Scherzers and the (Stephen) Strasburgs, but he’s just as competitive as any of them. When guys get on base, that’s when he becomes nails. He really does.”

Corbin is 2-1 with a 4.19 ERA in seven career starts against the Pirates. In his lone appearance against Pittsburgh this year, he got a no-decision on April 12, when he struck out a season-high-tying 11 over seven innings of one-run ball.

Musgrove, in his most recent start, gave the Pirates something they desperately need, a long, effective outing from a starter, but he did not get a win for it.

Musgrove struck out nine, tying his career high, and gave up two runs in 7 1/3 innings Friday. He wound up with a no-decision in Pittsburgh’s walk-off 3-2 win against the Chicago Cubs.

Musgrove has lost three of his past four decisions.

Against Washington, he is 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two career appearances, one of them a start, neither this season.