PITTSBURGH — Fans cheered when Mark Melancon came on to start the bottom of the ninth inning to try to protect a one-run lead for the Nationals. The cheers got louder when the Pittsburgh Pirates’ former closer blew his first save with his new team.
Rookie Jacob Stallings’ pinch-hit single in the 11th lifted the Pirates over Washington 6-5 on Friday night, preventing the Nationals from clinching a postseason berth.
Sean Rodriguez’s two-out RBI double in the ninth tied the score 5-5. Melancon blew a save for the first time in 13 chances since he was acquired from Pittsburgh on July 30 in a trade for left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero and a minor leaguer.
A brief video tribute was played on the scoreboard when Melancon entered the game.
“I didn’t know they were going to put a montage up there,” said Melancon, an All-Star in three of his four seasons with the Pirates. “It was classy. It was very cool to get a standing ovation. … I wanted to tip my cap but I didn’t because I didn’t want to mess up my mojo. I should have tipped my cap.”
Pittsburgh loaded the bases with one out in the 11tth against Yusmiero Petit (3-5) when Francisco Cervelli doubled, Andrew McCutchen was intentionally walked and Pedro Florimon walked. Rodriguez struck out and Stallings, a son of University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball coach Kevin Stallings, grounded a 3-2 pitch into left field.
Pittsburgh’s seventh win in nine games kept it on the fringe of the NL wild-card race.
Washington lost for the fifth time in six games. The Nationals have magic numbers of one for a playoff berth and two for an NL East title.
Despite the expanded September rosters, Stallings was the last player left on the Pirates’ bench.
“I kind of did the math in my head,” Stallings said. “Bases loaded, two outs was the only way I was going to come up that inning. (Bench coach Dave) Jauss came up and told me to be ready. I went down and hit on the tee before that inning. I knew I was the last guy, so I figured just in case.”
Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa homered for the Nationals. Bryce Harper had three hits and Ryan Zimmerman hit a pair of doubles.
Zimmerman’s RBI double in the second inning opened the scoring and was the 1,500th hit of his 12-year big league career. Espinosa followed with 23rd homer for a 3-0 lead.
Ramos led off a two-run sixth with his 22nd homer, a drive off Antonio Bastardo. Jayson Werth drew a bases-loaded walk later in the inning as the Nationals went back ahead 5-3.
Adam Frazier had a sacrifice fly in the bottom of half.
Wade LeBlanc (4-0) pitched one scoreless inning.
Pirates left fielder Gregory Polanco left the game in the first inning when bruised the left side of his face when crashing into the fence while chasing a double by Harper.
Both starters, Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez and Pittsburgh rookie Jameson Taillon, allowed three runs in five innings.
“It’s disappointing because you want to wrap up a playoff berth as fast as you can but you’re not going to win every game,” Gonzalez said. “You’ve got to come back and get them tomorrow.”
First baseman/outfielder Josh Bell is the Pirates’ minor league player of the year and right-hander Mitch Keller their minor league pitcher of the year. Bell hit .295 with 14 home runs in 114 games for Triple-A Indianapolis before being promoted to the major leagues. Keller went a combined 9-5 with a 2.35 ERA in 24 starts at Class A with West Virginia and Bradenton.
Rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow will start Sunday for the Pirates rather than rookie left-hander Steven Brault. Considering the organization’s top propsect, Glasnow is 0-1 with a 4.11 ERA in five games, including two starts.
Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy did not start for a fifth game in a row after an MRI revealed a strained glute muscle. He will sit out the three-game series be reevaluated.
Pirates: RHP A.J. Schugel (shoulder inflammation) was placed on the 60-day disabled list, opening a roster spot for LHP Phil Coke, who joined the team after being acquired Thursday from the New York Yankees. . LF Starling Marte (back) sat out after being removed from Thursday night’s loss at Milwaukee in the third inning. He missed 15 games before pinch hitting against the Brewers on Wednesday night. . SS Jordy Mercer (right forearm tightness) missed his second straight game.
Nationals: RHP Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48 ERA) will start Saturday night, his second outing since missing 2½ months with shoulder inflammation. He pitched three innings and gave up one run last Sunday against Atlanta in a no-decision.
Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.19) is 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA in nine starts since being acquired Aug. 1 from the New York Yankees in a trade. He took his first loss with the Pirates last Sunday, allowing five runs in three innings against Cincinnati.
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