Strasburg cruises, Zimmerman homers twice; Nats beat Pirates
WASHINGTON (AP) Stephen Strasburg pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings and Ryan Zimmerman homered twice to help the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 on Friday night.
Strasburg gave up two hits and two walks while striking out eight. He’s 5-1 with a 0.84 ERA since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 19. Strasburg (15-4) retired the first 14 batters before Gregory Polanco’s hard smash bounced off a diving Zimmerman at first base for the Pirates’ first hit.
Zimmerman’s multi-homer game was the 23rd of his career and seventh this season. He was 4-for-4 with two doubles and has reached 36 homers for the first time in his career. Zimmerman has 107 RBIs – three short of his career best. He had a two-run homer in the sixth and then a solo shot in the eighth.
Gerrit Cole (12-12) kept Pittsburgh close for a while with seven strikeouts and a walk. He allowed just one run with an out in the sixth inning before Daniel Murphy’s RBI single ended his night at 103 pitches. Zimmerman followed with his two-run homer off reliever A.J. Schugel.
Andrew McCutchen drove in the Pirates lone run with a double in the top of the ninth off Nationals reliever Matt Grace.
HARPER’S PLAYING TIME STILL LIMITED
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper won’t play a full game this weekend as he continues to recover from a hyperextended left knee that he sustained on Aug. 12.
Harper returned to the lineup on Tuesday and played two games this week in Philadelphia, not going a full nine innings either time. Washington manager Dusty Baker gave him a day off Thursday against Pittsburgh. Harper was back in the lineup Friday night against the Pirates and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and two double plays in seven innings.
Baker said the 2015 NL MVP will take another day off Saturday. Going nine innings on Sunday is unlikely, Baker said, meaning Harper won’t play a full game before the playoffs. Washington hosts the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Oct. 6.
”What’s the most (innings) he’s played? Five?” Baker said. ”Is there time for him to play nine? Realistically, when do I play him nine?”
Baker said the Nationals would continue to monitor how Harper feels.
”And if he’s a little sore,” Baker said, ”we’re not going to extend him.”
Pirates: Pittsburgh SS Jordy Mercer (knee), who has not played since departing after five innings Saturday, was out of the lineup for the fifth consecutive game. Mercer is hitting .255 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs in 145 games.
Nationals: RHP Sean Kelley, who left a Sept. 22 game against the New York Mets with arm pain, isn’t expected to be on the postseason roster, according to manager Dusty Baker. The Nats have not announced an exact diagnosis yet for Kelley, who has twice had Tommy John surgery and pitched in just 33 games this season with a 7.27 ERA.
Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (8-7, 4.62 ERA) starts on the regular season’s penultimate day as the four-game series continues.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.55 ERA) with one final chance to impress Cy Young Award voters when he makes his last regular-season start of 2017. Scherzer has won the award twice – with Detroit in 2013 and Washington in 2016.