WASHINGTON — For all the progress starter Francisco Liriano showed Friday night, a seventh-inning defensive meltdown cost the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Washington Nationals.
The Pirates made two errors during that decisive inning that contributed to their 5-1 loss in the first game out of the All-Star break. A mistake by first baseman David Freese on a sacrifice bunt attempt and the combination of a wild by pitch by reliever Neftali Feliz and throwing blunder by catcher Eric Fryer gave the Nationals the breaks they needed.
“It all comes back to game awareness,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We needed to handle it better.”
Liriano (5-9) lasted into the seventh inning, allowing three runs and five hits. He didn’t surrender a hit for the first three innings but wasn’t as sharp throughout as Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg (13-0), who allowed one run and three hits in eight innings.
Hurdle said Liriano pitched a “very competitive ballgame.”
“I feel like the last three starts, I’ve been getting better every start little by little,” Liriano said. “I just got to keep pitching, keep finding a way to get hitters to swing and miss. Try not to walk that many guys and get ahead in the count like I have these last couple of games.”
A walk and a single by Clint Robinson in the seventh ended Liriano’s night and sparked Washington’s rally. Danny Espinosa scored on Strasburg’s bunt and Freese failed to tag first to get an out.
“I threw to first,” Feliz said through an interpreter. “Unfortunately, the man wasn’t on first and Espinosa got there. It’s just something that happens.”
Feliz’s wild pitch allowed Robinson to go from second to third, and Fryer’s throwing error gave the Nationals their third run.
“I didn’t even know where the ball went,” said Robinson, who went 2 for 4 as a late starter at first base in place of Daniel Murphy. “I had no idea where it was. (Third base coach Bob Henley) just said ‘Go ahead,’ so I went.”
Feliz then served up a two-run homer to Michael Taylor, the center fielder’s seventh of the season, as Washington broke the game open. Nationals manager Dusty Baker said the Pirates helped his team out with the errors, and Taylor made his aggressive at-bat count.
“It was just a good inning altogether,” Taylor said. “Danny with the big base-running. We capitalized on a couple mistakes they made.”
Pirates: RHP Ryan Vogelsong, who has been out since May 23 when he was hit by a pitch and suffered three facial fractures, threw six scoreless innings in a rehab start for Double-A Altoona. … C Francisco Cervelli, who has been on the DL since June 11 with a broken bone in his wrist, doubled and singled in a rehab appearance with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Nationals: Murphy said he felt tightness in his hamstring after sliding into second base during the All-Star Game on Tuesday. The team listed him as day-to-day but he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to play Saturday night. … Baker said RHP Joe Ross continues to toss but remains on the DL with no definitive timeline.
This is the Pirates’ fourth annual dad’s trip, and almost 20 fathers of people throughout the organization are taking part.
“It’s an absolute blast for everybody,” Hurdle said. “It’s kind of like revisiting Little League but backwards because then we’ve got to follow our fathers around and make sure they haven’t left stuff behind.”
Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole (5-4, 2.77 ERA) returns from the DL and starts Saturday against Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (8-5, 3.01). Cole has been out since June 11 with a strained right triceps muscle.
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