- - Tuesday, July 10, 2018

PITTSBURGH – It was death by singles and walks for the host Pirates on Tuesday night, as the Washington Nationals coaxed two bases-loaded free passes during a three-run sixth inning for a 5-1 victory against Pittsburgh.

Pirates reliever Steve Brault, a former Orioles minor leaguer, walked pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds and Juan Soto with the bases loaded and Adam Eaton also had an RBI single during the inning to give the Nationals a 5-0 lead.

Washington scored in a more conventional fashion in the fifth as Anthony Rendon hit a two-run homer, his 13th of the year. He is tied with Matt Adams for second on the team with homers.

The third-place Nationals (46-45), winning for just the fourth time in 11 outings, began the night five games back of the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East.

Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, who came off the disabled list June 12, was 4-for-4 with two doubles. He was replaced by Wilmer Difo on defense in the last of the seventh. Rookie star left fielder Juan Soto was 3-for-4 with a walk.

Bryce Harper (0-for-5), who leads the Nationals with 22 longballs, struck four times Tuesday then grounded out in the ninth as his average dipped to .215.

Pirates starter Joe Musgrove (3-4), who had a career-high nine strikeouts, gave up two runs in five innings and was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the last of the fifth. Lefty reliever Brault came on in the sixth and couldn’t throw strikes, with three walks and three singles in the inning.

Jeremy Hellickson (3-1), the Washington starting pitcher, went five innings and allowed no runs and two hits with three strikeouts. He threw just 67 pitches but was lifted for pinch-hitter Reynolds in the top of the sixth with the bases loaded against Brault.

Hellickson had not posted a win since May 29 at Baltimore, his former team. In his previous start, at home Thursday against the Marlins, he lasted just four innings and gave up eight runs. The Iowa native posted just the third win for a Washington starter since June 7.

The Pirates scored a run in the seventh off reliever Brandon Kintzler to make it 5-1 as Max Moroff had an RBI groundout.

The Pirates loaded the bases in the ninth but reliever Kelvin Herrera got the final out for the Nats.

Before the Nationals game in Pittsburgh, the team put closer Sean Doolittle on the 10-day disabled list with left toe inflammation and sent pitcher Jefry Rodriguez to Triple-A Syracuse.

Doolittle, named to the National League All-Star team Sunday, has 22 saves and has an ERA of 1.45 in 35 games. The University of Virginia product won’t be active with the Nationals until after the All-Star break and he won’t pitch in the All-Star game.

The threat of rain – that never came – delayed the start of the game by 50 minutes.

The Nationals end the three-game series on Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. The starting pitcher for the Nationals will be lefty Gio Gonzalez (6-5, 3.76).

The veteran from Miami has not posted a win since May 28 at Baltimore when the Nationals won 6-0. In his last appearance, at home Friday against the Marlins, Gonzalez went five innings and gave up eight hits and two runs.

NOTES: The Wednesday game will be a Facebook Watch and will not be on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) … Fans have until Wednesday at 4 p.m. to vote for Nationals shortstop Trea Turner as he tries to beat our four other players for the last spot on the National League all-star team. Teammate Harper offered two free tickets to the Home Run Derby to a lucky fan if Turner claimed the spot.

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