PITTSBURGH -- The overarching storyline to last night's 4-2 loss, of course, was the Nationals' utter inability to make contact at the plate. But the evening's outcome might also have been different if not for a very strange bottom of the third inning in which the Pirates scored three runs in less-than-conventional fashion.
"We definitely want the third inning back," said Ross Detwiler, who had the misfortune of standing on the mound as it all played out.
Here's a recap of the inning...
-- Detwiler strikes out Pirates pitcher Brad Lincoln, but the ball gets away from catcher Wilson Ramos, and Lincoln winds up reaching first base on the wild pitch.
-- Jose Tabata smokes a ball back up the middle, it ricochets off Detwiler's foot and into shallow right field for a single.
-- Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen each single to right-center, each driving in a run.
-- Pedro Alvarez sends a harp chopper to third, which Ryan Zimmerman deftly scoops up and then gets Walker into a rundown between third base and home plate.
-- Casey McGehee sends a groundball to the hole at short. Ian Desmond gets the ball and thinks he can catch McCutchen rounding third too far. But McCutchen sees that Desmond is about to throw behind him and instead keeps running toward the plate, scoring ahead of the throw to make it 3-0.
"When I got to third, I was thinking of trying to score on the throw to first," McCutchen said. "He hesitated a little bit, and it was just enough to let me score."
Desmond gave all the credit to McCutchen's hustle.
"He made a good baserunning play there," the shortstop said. "I kept it in the infield. I would say nine or 10 times out 10, the runner stops and tries to dive back into third. He saw that I fielded it, and he looked at me and then just darted towards home. I had to make sure I had a good grip on the ball. It was just too late. A good baserunning play by him. And obviously, his speed helped."
Much of what transpired during the inning was out of Detwiler's control. But the left-hander did beat himself up for not trying to disrupt the pace of the inning.
"Really, you've got to just slow it down," he said. "That's one thing I didn't do. I didn't step off. I didn't slow it down. I just let it keep rolling too long. And by the time I did do that, it was too late, there were already three runs on the board."
And, given the current state of the Nationals' lineup, three runs were all Pittsburgh needed to win the game ... and the series.