Washington Nationals 5, Pittsburgh Pirates 1: Stars And Stiffs

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Pirates started their second half schedule with a 5-1 defeat against the Washington Nationals on Friday night.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are now 46-44 on the season. The second half of the Pittsburgh Pirates season began with a 5-1 loss against the Washington Nationals on Friday night. However, there are some positives to take away from this defeat.

The biggest positive is that Francisco Liriano pitched the best he has in quite a while. Also, Jordy Mercer‘s strong season continued on Friday night. Anyway, here are the Pittsburgh Pirates three stars and stiffs from their loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday night.


Starting pitcher Francisco Liriano – Francisco Liriano pitched better than his line indicated on Friday night. Liriano pitched into the seventh inning and allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits and five strikeouts. Friday night was the best Francisco Liriano has looked in quite a while.

Francisco Liriano should not have started the seventh inning, and when he did and issued a lead off walk to Danny Espinosa he should have been pulled. However, he remained in for another batter and gave up a single to Clint Robinson. Then both of those runners would score, with one being unearned, after Liriano was pulled from the game. 

Even though Francisco Liriano’s fastball command was not great, it was better than it had been. Also, his slider command was excellent and helped to generate a lot of swing and misses and weak contact.

This was the fifth straight improving start from Francisco Liriano. Entering tonight he had a 3.90 FIP, it was 3.51 tonight, in his last four starts. Also, Francisco Liriano has not allowed a home run in five straight starts now dropping his home run rate from 1.76 HR/9 to 1.28 HR/9. Tonight was a huge step in the right direction for Francisco Liriano, and if he can continue this throughout the second half the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation will be in great shape.

Shortstop Jordy Mercer – The best offensive career of Jordy Mercer’s career continued on Friday night. Mercer went 1-for-3 with a RBI at the plate. This RBI of Mercer’s drove in the Pittsburgh Pirates only run of the night.

On the season Mercer now owns a .270/.357/.378/.735 slash line. His .357 on-base percentage is a career high, and his .320 wOBA and 101 wRC+ are the second highest of his career. However, they are the best numbers he has ever posted in a season where he has been a full-time starter.

First baseman David Freese – The resurrection of David Freese continues. David Freese got the start at first base on Friday night for the Pittsburgh Pirates and just continued to produce. Freese finished the night 1-for-3 with a walk at the plate.

On the season David Freese now has a career best .366 wOBA and a career best 132 wRC+. David Freese is also third on the Pittsburgh Pirates in WAR at 1.7. David Freese is a free agent to be after the season, but I would love to see the Pirates approach Freese about a contract extension.


Relief pitcher Neftali Feliz – All season long Neftali Feliz has been an extremely reliable reliever for the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, on Friday night he had a horrible outing. Feliz recorded just one out, and was charged with two runs, one earned, while walking a batter and allowing a home run.

Feliz took over in the bottom of the seventh inning with the game tied at one. The Nationals had runners on the corners, no one out, and Stephen Strasburg at the plate. Strasburg laid down a bunt, Feliz fielded it, and had Danny Espinosa dead to rights between third base and home plate.

However, Feliz’s throw went to first base and Espinosa was able to score. Further complicating problems was that David Freese did not tag first base, so Strasburg was safe there. After recording and strikeout and a walk, Feliz would allow a home run that busted the game open and set the final at 5-1.

Second baseman Josh Harrison – With first baseman John Jaso getting the night off on Friday night, Josh Harrison hit lead off for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, things did not go well for Harrison. On the night Josh Harrison went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Josh Harrison is having a disappointing season at the plate for the Pittsburgh Pirates. On the season Josh Harrison is hitting just .270 with a .301 on-base percentage. Also, his .289 wOBA and wRC+ of 80 are both the lowest they have been since 2012. At least Josh Harrison has still been a plus defender at second base this season, leading to him having a 0.9 WAR.

Right fielder Matt Joyce – Matt Joyce is having one of the best seasons of his career, however Friday night was not a good one for him. Matt Joyce went 0-for-4 at the plate, he left three men on base, and he struck out to end the game. In the top of the fifth inning with Starling Marte on second base and no one out, Joyce fouled out to Nationals’ third baseman Anthony Rendon. He then flew out to right field with one out and Andrew McCutchen on second base in the top of the seventh.

Next: Why The Pittsburgh Pirates Will Still Make The Postseason

Friday night’s loss sucked, they all do. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates were facing one of the best starting pitchers in all of Major League Baseball in Stephen Strasburg so a loss was not a total shocker. The disappointing part was the Pirate meltdown in the seventh inning.

On Saturday the Pittsburgh Pirates send Gerrit Cole to the mound for his first start since June 10th, and he will face Tanner Roark. If the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to avoid a sweep this weekend, they probably have to win tomorrow. It will be great to see Ace 45 back on the mound tomorrow.