Published January 13, 2015
The Washington Nationals were able to breathe a sigh of relief with outfielder Bryce Harper and hope third baseman Ryan Zimmerman can make a healthy return Friday in the opener of a three-game road series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
Harper left Wednesday's win over the Atlanta Braves after aggravating a shoulder bruise on a check swing, but X-rays were negative and the young star was back in the lineup the following night. Harper, though, went 0-for-4 in the 3-1 victory for the Nationals, who split the four-game series.
Denard Span went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBI and a run scored, while Anthony Rendon collected a pair of hits for Washington.
Nats starter Dan Haren pitched eight innings of one-run ball for the win and allowed just four hits and a walk. Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth to notch his ninth save.
"(Haren's) a consummate pitcher," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. "He doesn't give in to a hitter. He's got all kinds of movement on the ball, and this is a very aggressive swinging ballclub."
Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth left the game because of a hamstring issue and finished 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Roger Bernadina took over for Werth in the outfield. Werth had missed the previous two games of the Atlanta series because of ankle and hamstring issues and is day-to-day.
Hoping to give Washington's lineup a boost is Zimmerman. He's expected to be activated off the disabled list in time for Friday's game and has been shelved since April 21 with a strained left hamstring. Zimmerman got some work in down in the minor leagues.
Ross Detwiler will take the mound for the Nationals Friday and is 1-2 with a 2.03 earned run average in five starts. He has dropped consecutive starts and gave up four runs -- three earned -- and a season high 11 hits over five innings of a 5-2 loss against Cincinnati on Sunday. In two career starts against the Pirates, Detwiler is 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA.
Pittsburgh is back home for five games versus Washington and Seattle and just went 6-4 on a lengthy 10-game road trip.
The Pirates salvaged the finale of a three-game series in Milwaukee with Wednesday's 6-4 win behind a trio of homers from Starling Marte, Pedro Alvarez and Michael McKenry. Marte's two-run homer in the decisive four-run eighth inning propelled Pittsburgh to victory, its ninth in 13 tries.
"A lot of teams, down two, three runs, roll over and die. This team has not done that once," Pirates veteran Brandon Inge said. "It's a good thing. It means you're not panicking."
Jeanmar Gomez got the start for the Pirates and did not figure into the decision, permitting three runs -- two earned -- in four innings. Bryan Morris earned the win in relief and Jason Grilli pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his 11th save of the season. Grilli is tied with two other players for the major league lead in saves (Mariano Rivera, Sergio Romo).
Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata left Wednesday's win with an undisclosed injury to his left leg and could miss Friday's game. Tabata went 2-for-4.
"He jammed his left leg going into the base," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Tabata. "He'll see the doctors back in Pittsburgh and be evaluated on Friday."
Pittsburgh, which is 8-4 at home, will send A.J. Burnett to the bump against the Nationals and he is unbeaten in his last four starts (2-0). Burnett lost his first two starts of the season, but has bounced back to even his record at 2-2 in six outings with a 2.83 ERA. The right-hander last took the mound in Saturday's 5-3 win at St. Louis and gave up two runs in six innings.
Burnett has yielded just four runs in his past three starts, spanning 18 innings, and is 7-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 15 career matchups (14 starts) with Washington.
The Pirates won three of five contests against the Nationals last season.