Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Nationals 6, Pirates 1 Nationals Pop off on Pirates, Then Champagne for Division

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Nationals 6, Pirates 1 Nationals Pop off on Pirates, Then Champagne for Division

Article excerpt

A half-hour after the Washington Nationals' 6-1 victory against the Pirates Saturday night, the champagne shower commenced in the visiting clubhouse at PNC Park. Washington had clinched the National League East Division title, sending closer Mark Melancon back to the postseason.

This time, his road won't wind through the wild-card game, either.

The Pirates' elimination number, meanwhile, was chopped to five. Before the series began, the Nationals' magic number then at two, manager Clint Hurdle said "it leaves a sour taste in your mouth" when another team pops champagne at your ballpark. And so Saturday was sour.

The Pirates (77-77) provided little resistance after a dramatic, 11th-inning walk-off win Friday. Right-hander Ivan Nova received no respite from the Nationals lineup or the leaky Pirates defense. He allowed eight hits and six runs, three earned, over four innings before departing.

"We more or less took him out of the game with our defense," Hurdle said of the three errors.

If Nova's first eight starts for the Pirates - a 2.41 ERA and two complete games - gave the front office a reason to believe in his future, the past two starts have raised concerns. He went three innings a week ago in Cincinnati, surrendering 10 hits and five runs, four earned.

Still, Nova will be among the strongest options in a weak market for free-agent starting pitchers this winter. The Pirates extended him two contract offers in September, multiple sources said this week, but have not matched the Nova camp's original asking price of five years, $70 million.

Nova was tortured Sunday by misadventures of small ball and defensive miscues. The Nationals wore out their welcome Saturday night with three runs in the first, then added three more in the fourth. Nova's command was spotty early. He hit two batters and needed 69 pitches for four frames. …

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