Pirates off to best start since ’83 after win over Nationals

WASHINGTON — The Pittsburgh Pirates improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1983, beating the Washington Nationals 8-4 on Monday with two run-scoring hits from Connor Joe, including a tiebreaking RBI double in the eighth inning.

Michael A. Taylor, a former member of the Nationals, had three hits and Bryan Reynolds, Andrew McCutchen, Alika Williams and Henry Davis delivered two apiece. Reynolds stretched his on-base streak to 33 consecutive games dating to last season with a first-inning single and tackled on a two-run double in the ninth.

“If we keep doing what we do, keep having competitive at-bats, we’re going to wear down some bullpens,” Joe said, “and it’s going to lead to some wins, for sure.”

Pittsburgh remained unbeaten in 2024, all on the road, following a four-game sweep of the Miami Marlins to begin the season. The Pirates were 76-86 last year.

They have scored at least six runs in each of the first five games of a season for the first time since at least 1900.

“Our guys just don’t give in. You really can’t put us away,” Pirates starting pitcher Marco Gonzales said. “That says a lot about the character of the hitters, for sure.”

Pittsburgh led 3-1 entering the seventh, but backup catcher Riley Adams — playing for the first time this season — tied the game for Washington by depositing a four-seam fastball 427 feet off reliever Roansy Contreras for a two-run homer. Contreras (1-0), though, got the win.

That’s because his teammates produced a three-run eighth off relievers Robert Garcia (0-1) and Matt Barnes. The big hit was Joe’s double to left that scored Taylor, who reached on a bunt. Ke’Bryan Hayes and McCutchen also drove in runs.

Aroldis Chapman got Lane Thomas to pop up for the final out with two men on, earning his first save of the season.

Nationals Manager Dave Martinez had used his top two relievers, Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey, in each of the past two games, so he stayed away from them in front of an announced sellout crowd of 40,405 for the club’s home opener on a gray, dreary afternoon with the temperature in the low 50s.

Neither starting pitcher factored in the decision. Gonzales, acquired from Atlanta via trade in December, allowed one run in five-plus innings in his Pirates debut. Washington’s MacKenzie Gore gave up 3 runs and 5 hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out 6 batters and hitting 2 — Joe and McCutchen.

Three of the loudest ovations during pregame introductions were showered on players no longer playing for Washington, which has finished last every year since its 2019 World Series title: Sean Doolittle and Geraldo Parra (of “Baby Shark” fame) — who are both now Nationals coaches — and Taylor, who drove in Pittsburgh’s first run with a sacrifice-fly.

“To be able to come back here and get that kind of welcome was special,” Taylor said. “I really appreciated it. I wasn’t expecting anything. [But] I know what this place meant to me.”

The Nationals are 1-3.

Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Henry Davis rounds first for a double during the first inning of an opening-day baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton and Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez embrace during introductions of an opening day baseball game at Nationals Park, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
photo Washington Nationals, Riley Adams celebrates his two-run homer with Ildemaro Vargas during the seventh inning of an opening-day baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
photo Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Marco Gonzales throws during the first inning of an opening day baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
photo Washington Nationals starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore adjusts his sleeve between pitches during the first inning of an opening-day baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)
photo Washington Nationals third baseman Trey Lipscomb hits a single during the second inning of an opening-day baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)
 
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