PITTSBURGH — Tyler Clippard might not have been the difference-maker in the Washington Nationals' 8-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night. He did provide the turning point that allowed sluggers Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman to fill that role.
Clippard, a Lexington native, got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth inning, and Dunn and Zimmerman homered in the next two innings as Washington rallied from a 3-0 deficit to salvage a split of the four-game series between last-place teams.
"It really takes a little wind out of your sails when you've got the bases loaded and nobody out and don't score, and it pumps the other team up a little bit," Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman said. "We were able to turn the game around from that point."
Cristian Guzman had two hits and two RBI for Washington, which won the last two games after a four-game losing streak.
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Andrew McCutchen homered for the fourth time in three games and Ryan Doumit went 3-for-5 for the Pirates, who have lost seven of nine.
Mike MacDougal earned his eighth save by getting Delwyn Young, the only batter he faced, to ground out with two runners on.
Clippard (2-1) earned the win with three hitless innings of relief of Garrett Mock, who allowed 12 baserunners through four-plus innings while the Nationals only advanced one runner past first base through the first five innings against Charlie Morton.
The Pirates had taken a 3-0 lead in the first but failed to add on despite loading the bases in the second and fifth innings.
Clippard got out of his jam by getting Delwyn Young to hit a comebacker double play and Andy LaRoche to pop out.
"That could have changed the game around," McCutchen said. "That was pretty much the biggest key for us, really. You figure you're getting one run from out of that inning and hope for two so you take a 5-0 lead."
Clippard said he approached the situation "with the mentality of not letting anybody score."
"That's not always easy with nobody out and the bases loaded, but I was trying to get a strikeout there," he said. "Luckily, it was a chopper back to me, and we were able to turn two, which is way better."