- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 2, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Nationals’ new leadoff hitter was it again Wednesday night.

Bryce Harper homered in the first inning and drove in three runs, Stephen Strasburg struck out 11 and Washington beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-3 for its fourth straight victory.

“We’ll let it ride and see what happens,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of the new lineup. “The boys are doing well. Like I said, (Harper’s) getting pitched to a little bit now and he’s swinging the bat really well.”

Matt Adams clubbed his third homer in two games for Washington. Strasburg (3-3) allowed three runs - two earned - and seven hits in seven innings.

Batting first for the second straight game, Harper sent a pitch from Ivan Nova (2-2) into the second deck in right-center for his 10th homer this season and second in two nights.

It was Harper’s first career leadoff home run.

Adams followed one out later with a shot just beyond the reach of Corey Dickerson in left field.

Washington pounded out 14 hits - three by Howie Kendrick - and went 6 for 19 (.316) with runners in scoring position.

“Everybody swung the bat well. One through nine, everybody contributed,” Harper said.

Harper doubled and scored in the third, drove in a run with a fielder’s choice in the fourth and singled home a run in the fifth before grounding out in the seventh.

Francisco Cervelli homered for Pittsburgh, which will try to avoid a series sweep on Thursday.

“We haven’t executed the way we need to. They’ve hit the mistakes we’ve made,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We had opportunities in two innings today to push and we needed a hit. We needed a ball in the gap a couple different times. Could have changed the entire direction of the game.”

Nova left after 5 2/3 innings. He gave up eight runs, five earned, and 11 hits.

The Pirates’ half of the first inning featured two replay reviews, one that led to a run.

With runners on first and second, Josh Bell hit into a fielder’s choice but Hurdle challenged the play at second. Upon review, it was ruled that shortstop Trea Turner’s foot was off the bag when he caught the throw.

With the bases loaded, Dickerson grounded into a run-scoring fielder’s choice, with Bell out at second. Hurdle challenged the play at second again, but the out call was upheld.

Strasburg expressed frustration with the back-to-back reviews, but then spoke to plate umpire Eric Cooper.

“I apologized to him and he has nothing to do with it, but I just thought it was pretty ridiculous altogether,” Strasburg said. “Is that what baseball’s come to?”


Hurdle when asked if RHP Joe Musgrove’s pending return sends a message to his other starters: “It can. There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘pitch better.’ I think sometimes we’re so concerned about being politically correct. … Let’s just be correct. When you’re correct you don’t have to worry about being politically correct.”


Washington RHP Max Scherzer was selected National League pitcher of the month for April. He went 5-1 with a 1.62 ERA and 57 strikeouts against nine walks.


Pirates: Hurdle said Musgrove (shoulder strain) is slated to make his second rehab start Sunday. The plan is for him to throw four innings or 65 pitches for Double-A Altoona.

Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy (offseason right knee surgery) said he is experiencing discomfort when he runs. “He’s frustrated,” Martinez said. “He can do everything but run.” … 3B Anthony Rendon (bruised toe) will begin a rehab assignment Thursday. Martinez said Rendon will play one or two games with Class A Potomac.


Pirates: RHP Trevor Williams (4-1, 2.29 ERA) makes his first career start against the Nationals. He’s 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three road starts this season.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 4.11) is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA and .187 opponents’ batting average in five starts against the Pirates.


More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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