Pirates look for more against Nationals after opening sweep

League: MLB

Posted on: 01 Apr, 2024 at 11:33 AM

Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Successful seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates have been few and far between over the past couple of decades.

The franchise most recently had a winning season in 2018 and hasn't appeared in the postseason since the 2015 National League wild-card game.

If the first series of the 2024 campaign is any indication of how this season will treat the Pirates, the tide might be turning in the right direction.

Pittsburgh enters play Monday afternoon as a winner of its first four games for just the fourth time in the past 40 years, following a sweep in Miami over the Marlins. The Pirates will aim to make it five straight wins Monday in Washington, D.C., against the Nationals.

Marco Gonzales (4-1 with a 5.22 ERA in 2023) is scheduled to take the mound for Pittsburgh, as the left-hander will make his first start with the club after being acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the offseason. The Braves sent him to Pittsburgh after they acquired him from Seattle, where he had played for the previous six-plus seasons.

Confidence is high for Pittsburgh, which opened the year with a four-game sweep on the road for the first time since 1903.

It appeared Sunday that the Pirates would lose for the first time after falling behind 5-0 in the first inning.

However, Pittsburgh clawed back to force extra innings, where Jason Delay and Michael Taylor each drove in 10th-inning runs to help close out a 9-7 win and an unblemished weekend in South Florida.

Pirates first baseman Rowdy Tellez, playing in his first series with the club after two-plus seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the seventh inning Sunday.

"It feels good," Tellez said of the four-game sweep. "The vibes are really good. We've got a lot of players that have been on winning teams, and a lot of guys that want to be on a winning team, and you can sense that."

The Nationals were a strike away from taking two of three from the Reds in Cincinnati on Sunday before closer Kyle Finnegan allowed three hits with two outs in the ninth inning, including back-to-back home runs from Will Benson and Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who launched a home run to send Washington home with a 6-5 loss.

"I made two mistakes," Finnegan said. "It's a tough one. Two mistakes on a pitch that I usually execute pretty well. It hurts a little bit. We had a chance to take the series and get some momentum heading back home. Just ready to put this one behind me and get back out there."

Washington did have some offensive bright spots, as right fielder Lane Thomas drove in three runs and rookie third baseman Trey Lipscomb hit the first home run of his career, a solo shot that broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the seventh inning.

"It's tough, but I'm pleased with how we've played the last two games," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "When you have a chance to go into the ninth inning with your closer, usually good things happen, but tonight it didn't happen. Now we get to go home, have our home opener and go 1-0 tomorrow."

Martinez will hand the ball to MacKenzie Gore, the third-year player who started 27 games last season, finishing with a 7-10 record and 4.42 ERA. Gore has allowed no runs and two hits run in seven innings vs. the Pirates in his career, with three walks and nine strikeouts.

Lifetime against the Nationals, Gonzales has given up four runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings, with one walk and one strikeout.

--Field Level Media