PITTSBURGH -- There was a lot of pushing and shoving behind home plate in the third inning of the Nationals and Pirates' series finale Sunday afternoon at PNC Park. Plenty of give-and-take on the scoreboard, too. The Pirates pushed, but the Nats pushed back with a five-run eighth inning, pulling out a 10-7 win in the back-and-forth, four-hour affair.
The Pirates and Nats combined to use 17 pitchers, one shy of the Major League record for a nine-inning game. In total, 45 different players took the field, tying the NL record and falling one short of matching the Major League high for a nine-inning game.
"It wasn't a very good game," Nats manager Dusty Baker said with a laugh. "We won the game, but it wasn't a very good game on either side. There were errors, there were a number of walks."
Tempers also flared in the third after Jung Ho Kang faked a tag at third base on Bryce Harper's triple, causing Harper to slide awkwardly into third base and eventually leave the game with a sore left thumb. Nats right-hander A.J. Cole threw behind Kang in his next at-bat, leading to a dugout-clearing scuffle around home plate.
"What kind of irked me is when a couple guys over there they were talking stuff when I was walking back [toward the dugout after checking on Harper]," Baker said. "I don't start nothing, but I don't take nothing."
"I meant no harm," Kang said through interpreter HK Kim. "During the relay play, I try to hold the runner on third base. That's all I try to do."
But after getting brushed back, Kang punched back with a tiebreaking two-run homer in the seventh inning -- his 20th of the season -- to give the Bucs a 7-5 lead. The lead wouldn't last long, however. Jayson Werth, who was also prominently involved in the third-inning fracas, lined a two-run homer to center off Pirates setup man Felipe Rivero, a former Nationals teammate. Chris Heisey, Harper's replacement, drove in the go-ahead run with a single to left. Clint Robinson singled in an insurance run, then Phil Coke walked Pedro Severino to bring home the Nats' 10th run of the game.
The Pirates, still clinging to their slim postseason hopes but sitting behind the three-team pack atop the National League Wild Card standings, have lost three of their last four games. Top prospect Tyler Glasnow started in place of left-hander Steven Brault and struggled, allowing four runs (three earned) in three innings.
"It's definitely not good when they come out and score three in the first inning, but you've just got to stick with the gameplan and not try to do any more or less," Glasnow said. "You've got to go out and keep pitching."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Benches clear in third: Tensions between the two teams began in the top of the inning when Kang faked a tag on an errant throw that forced Harper to slide awkwardly into the base on a triple. Harper injured his left hand on the play, and although he finished running the bases, he was removed from the game with a left thumb injury to start the bottom of the inning and is day-to-day.
"Yeah I thought it was wrong," Baker said on Kang's fake tag. "They didn't think that he did anything wrong. That's how arguments usually get started."
When Kang came to bat with two outs in the bottom of the third, Cole threw behind Kang's head, resulting in an immediate ejection and causing both benches and bullpens to clear. Cole, who maintained after the game that his pitch to Kang was not intentional, and a Pirates outfielder Sean Rodriguez were both ejected from the game.
"There's a baseball sense to that where you try to get back at somebody. Typically, the unwritten rule would be below the shoulder's fine," Rodriguez said. "You can throw at my knees, throw at my thighs, hit me in the back. If you feel like you can dot me up that confidently and not miss, fine. But you can watch the replay yourself. The ball went behind his head. All bets are off. We're talking about somebody's livelihood now." More >
Breaking Glas-now: Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' top prospect, made his first Major League start since July 23 after a brief but successful stint in the Bucs' bullpen. Recently named MLBPipeline.com's Pitcher of the Year, Glasnow once again struggled to translate his eye-popping Minor League success into big league production. Two batters into the game, Glasnow had given up a hit, a walk and three stolen bases. He left after three slow, uneven innings having allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits and a walk while striking out five.
"Pretty below-average. I think that's kind of been the theme since I've been up here. Stuff hasn't been as sharp," Glasnow said. "I'm going to get back eventually. I know I will. I've been that guy. I just need to go out and keep pitching, and it will come back eventually. … Stuff-wise, this has lasted a little longer than it has before. It's going to come back eventually."
Winning with the reserves: Despite a starting lineup that featured just three of their everyday players, the Nationals pulled off a key victory Sunday afternoon as they hope to secure home-field advantage for the NL Division Series. And several players may have helped their cause to make the postseason roster as a potential reserve. The Nationals set a franchise record by using nine pitchers and Ben Revere collected three hits.
Heads-up baserunning: The Pirates churned out a run in unusual fashion to tie the game in the first inning. With Andrew McCutchen at third base and Kang at first, Jordy Mercer popped out to catcher Jose Lobaton. Kang made a move toward second base, drawing a throw from Lobaton, and McCutchen sprinted home safely. Just like that, the Bucs erased Glasnow's rough first inning with a three-run frame of their own.
"We've been working on it for four years," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's the first time it's scored a run for us. It's something we talk about every series."
"That was a very extended nine-inning ballgame." -- Hurdle, informed that they fell one player shy of tying the Major League record for most players used in a nine-inning game
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
McCutchen's fifth-inning double to left extended his hitting streak to 13 games, tying the second-longest streak of his career. It was also the 1,300th hit of McCutchen's eight-year career. He is now the 19th player in the 130-year history of the Pirates with at least 1,300 hits. Manny Sanguillen is 18th on Pittsburgh's all-time list with 1,343 hits.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: The Nats return home for the final homestand of the season to host the D-backs for a four-game series at Nationals Park beginning Monday night at 7:05 p.m. ET. Tanner Roark (15-9, 2.70 ERA) will be seeking his career best 16th win of the season.
Pirates: The Pirates will begin their final home series of the season Monday night at PNC Park, welcoming the Cubs to Pittsburgh for a four-game series. Rookie right-hander Chad Kuhl will star the 7:05 p.m. ET opener against Major League ERA leader Kyle Hendricks. Kuhl has put together two straight quality starts since having a turn skipped in the rotation.