Ke’Bryan Hayes capped off a ninth-inning rally with an RBI single as the Pittsburgh Pirates slipped past the Washington Nationals 4-3 on Friday night.
Hayes completed a two-run comeback by sending a pitch from Washington reliever Alberto Baldonado to right field, scoring Ben Gamel from third for the first walk-off hit of his career.
Pittsburgh trailed 3-2 going into the ninth but quickly put two men on off Washington rookie reliever Patrick Murphy (0-1).
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Murphy gave way to Baldonado, who retired Cole Tucker but allowed the tying run to score on a groundout to shortstop by Colin Moran.
Hayes then won it to spoil the return of former Pirates All-Star first baseman Josh Bell to PNC Park. Bell, who spent five seasons in Pittsburgh and made the All-Star team in 2019 before being traded to the Nationals last December, hit his 26th home run of the season for Washington.
The home run was Bell’s seventh in his last 18 games, part of a late-season surge for the burly first baseman sent to Washington on Christmas Eve for prospects as part of a top-to-bottom rebuild in Pittsburgh.
Bell is hitting .313 (21 for 67) since Aug. 22, one of the few bright spots of late for the last-place Nationals. Chad Kuhl (5-6) earned the victory after pitching a scoreless ninth.
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Hayes and Anthony Alford had two hits apiece for Pittsburgh. Alford’s solo homer in the seventh pulled the Pirates within 3-2. Washington starter Josh Rogers kept Pittsburgh off balance for 6 2/3 innings in his second start for Washington since being promoted to the majors.
He allowed two runs on eight hits with one walk and one strikeout. Riley Adams hit an RBI triple in the second inning off Steven Brault and scored on Lane Thomas’ run-scoring single to give Washington an early lead. Brault saw his bid for his first victory since last September end when he exited with left arm discomfort after throwing 42 pitches in two innings.
He spent the first four months of the season on the injured list with left lat strain in his back. Many in the small crowd on hand to watch to rebuilding clubs wore shirts and jerseys emblazed with the No. 55 Bell donned during his stay in Pittsburgh.
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Now wearing No. 19 for Washington, Bell was greeted with a warm ovation after stepping to the plate with two outs in the first inning and he tipped his red batting helmet in return. Pittsburgh selected Bell in the second round of the 2011 player draft as a strapping teenage outfielder.
He reached the majors in 2016 as a first baseman and willingly embraced the role as the face of the franchise after star center fielder Andrew McCutchen was traded in January 2018. Bell flourished in the first half of 2019, making the All-Star team after a torrid stretch in which he hit .302 with 27 home runs.
He faded down the stretch and so did the Pirates, whose second-half swoon led to a franchise-wide reboot that focused on amassing as many prospects as possible.
The plan eventually led Pittsburgh to send Bell to Washington and start over. Hayes, who finished third in NL Rookie of the Year balloting a year ago, is considered a big part of the puzzle.
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He was limited by a wrist injury early in the season but has thrived of late.
NOLIN, MARTINEZ SUSPENDED
Washington bench coach Tim Bogar served as manager after Major League Baseball suspended Dave Martinez one game and starting pitcher Sean Nolin five games after ruling Nolin intentionally hit Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman on Wednesday night.
Nationals: Rookie Josiah Gray (0-2, 5.65 ERA) will make his ninth career start on Saturday. Gray has allowed a combined 12 runs in his last starts.
Pirates: Wil Crowe (3-7, 5.94) will start on Saturday against the team that selected him in the second round of the 2017 draft. Crowe was part of the trade that sent Bell to the Nationals.