WASHINGTON -- The Pirates managed just one hit through the first eight innings Saturday before erupting for four runs in the ninth to steal a 4-1 victory over the Nationals on Saturday night at Nationals Park.
"Every AB should matter. You come to the field, at one point, it's going to cross your mind where you know, 'OK, these games don't necessarily matter,'" said third baseman Sean Rodriguez, who drove in the tying run with a single to left field. "But they do. Every game should matter. If you're not a prideful person that plays to win, I don't see you lasting very long in any major sport or in any kind of competitive game. It definitely matters."
And on a night when the Nationals bullpen blew a save, Pirates right-hander Felipe Rivero, who was traded by Washington at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season, tossed a 1-2-3 ninth.
Entering the penultimate game in the regular season, with the National League East already locked up and their first postseason matchup determined, the main goal for the Nationals is to go into October healthy. So it was concerning when Max Scherzer, their presumptive Game 1 starter for the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile on Friday night, left this game with a right hamstring cramp.
Scherzer wanted to remain in the game, but Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he removed his ace as a precaution. Scherzer was sent to receive an MRI and was not available to reporters after the game.
"He didn't want to come out; we thought it was best," Baker said. "Max never wants to come out. We thought it was best for him and us for him to go out."
Baker did not sound too concerned about Scherzer's injury status, saying it would not affect how the Nationals were planning to slot their playoff rotation. After Scherzer gave up one hit in 3 1/3 scoreless innings, right-hander A.J. Cole came on in relief to hold the Pirates hitless over 3 2/3 innings with a pair of walks and strikeouts.
Pittsburgh received an encouraging outing from right-hander Jameson Taillon in his final start of the 2017 season. He gave up one run on four hits in seven innings with five strikeouts.
"Maybe as good of a game as he's pitched all year," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It had to be a very good feeling, though, to finish so strong. … Very proud of him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Stay hot: After going 4-for-4 Friday night, Ryan Zimmerman continued his recent hot streak with a single in the second inning that scored Daniel Murphy from second base. Zimmerman collected hits in his first two at-bats Saturday to give him hits in six consecutive at-bats, a positive sign for a streaky hitter as the postseason approaches.
Ninety feet away: The Pirates threatened to score in the seventh inning after Jordan Luplow made it to third base with two outs and Rodriguez at the plate. But Cole reared back and struck out Rodriguez on five pitches to end the threat and leave the potential tying run stranded.
"Everybody's got a chance to do something. He's had a challenging season. He's learned a lot of new things. The results probably haven't been what he's wanted. The experience gained, to have a night like this along the way … four good at-bats on the night, yeah, that helps."-- Hurdle, on Moroff, who finished 2-for-2 with two walks and three RBIs
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Taillon posted a 3.60 ERA in 10 starts on the road this season compared to a 5.03 ERA in 15 home outings.
Moroff's go-ahead hit was his first triple in the Majors. The switch-hitting rookie also reached base four times in a game for the first time in his career.
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW Starling Marte tapped a grounder to shortstop to begin the ninth inning, before he was called out at first base on a close play. But following a quick review the call was overturned to give Marte an infield single and extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Left-hander Steven Brault will take the mound in the Pirates' final game of the season Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park. Over four outings in September, the rookie has allowed five runs on 15 hits and struck out 10 in 19 innings. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET.
Nationals: Washington wraps up the regular season with Sunday's finale against Pittsburgh. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will take the mound looking to complete one of the best years of his career and potentially reach 200 innings for the first time since 2011.