PITTSBURGH – Charlie Morton worked into the sixth inning to snap a lengthy losing streak and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Washington Nationals 4-3 Friday night.
Morton (1-6) allowed one run on five hits in 5 2/3 workmanlike innings for his first victory since last September. Pedro Alvarez hit his ninth home run of the season after being dropped from fourth to sixth in the lineup. Ike Davis, who replaced Alvarez as the cleanup hitter, went 2 for 4 with two runs scored.
Jason Grilli picked up his first save since April 14 in his return from the disabled list.
The Pirates have won three straight and four of five.
Jordan Zimmerman (3-2) labored through six innings to lose for the first time in over a month. Denard Span had two of Washington’s eight hits. The Nationals left 11 runners on base while losing their third straight.
Morton has pitched well at times this season and began the night with the lowest ERA among Pittsburgh starters (3.45) but had not been rewarded with a victory. He wasn’t dominant while walking four batters and hitting another but managed to keep Washington’s struggling offense in check and the bullpen made it stand up.
The injury-ravaged Nationals – minus hobbled stars Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper among others – threw out a lineup that included four players hitting .192 or worse. Getting opportunities wasn’t an issue. Taking advantage of them was another matter entirely. Washington stranded at least one runner in every inning.
The Pirates weren’t quite as busy on the basepaths but managed to be a little more efficient getting runners home. Manager Clint Hurdle tinkered with the batting order hoping to get a little more production out of the meat of the lineup and it paid immediate dividends.
Hurdle moved Davis – hitting .328 this month – from fifth to fourth and dropped Alvarez to sixth after a prolonged slump.
Davis singled leading off the second and fourth and came home both times, scoring on a fielder’s choice by Starling Marte in the second and trotting home after Alvarez sent a Zimmerman fastball into the bushes in center field for his first homer since May 5 to make it 4-0.
The Nationals crept back in it slowly. Jayson Werth scored on a sacrifice fly by Greg Dobbs in the sixth. Washington drew within one in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Scott Hairston and a wild pitch by Pittsburgh reliever Bryan Morris.
Grilli, facing live batters for the first time since April 20, worked around a leadoff walk to Anthony Rendon to give the Pirates their major league-leading 13th one-run victory. Josh Harrison ended the game with a leaping catch at the wall in right field to rob Ian Desmond of extra bases.
Notes: The victory was Hurdle’s 800th as a major league manager. He is the sixth active manager to reach 800 victories. ... Nationals 1B Adam LaRoche went 1 for 3 with a walk in a rehab start for Double-A Altoona on Friday night, clearing the way for him to return from a strained right quadriceps on Sunday. ... The series continues on Saturday when former No. 1 overall picks Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole meet for the first time. Strasburg, the top pick in the 2009 amateur draft is 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA this season. Cole, the top pick in the 2011 draft, is 4-3 with a 3.84 ERA.