Nationals clinch NL East title

Charles LeClaire—X02835
Sep 24

PITTSBURGH — The Washington Nationals clinched the National League East title and a playoff spot on Saturday night with a 6-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.A 10-8 loss by the New York Mets to the Philadelphia Phillies gave the Nationals the division title — their third in five years — outright.Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos each drove in two runs and reliever Reynaldo Lopez (4-3) pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings for Washington (90-64).The loss hurt the Pirates’ dwindling chance to make it to the postseason. Pittsburgh (77-77) has won seven of its past 10 games but remains four games out of a wild-card spot, pending the result of a later San Francisco game, with eight games left.Washington’s Joe Ross was making his second start since missing 66 games because of right shoulder inflammation. He went a prescribed three innings in his first outing. However, he got yanked with two outs in the third after giving up a run and leaving the bases loaded for reliever Sean Burnett.Ross was charged with one run and five hits in 2 2/3 innings.For Pirates starter Ivan Nova (12-8), the honeymoon might be winding down. Since starting his Pittsburgh career 5-0 after being acquired Aug. 1 from the New York Yankees, he lost for the second start in a row.In four innings, Nova gave up six runs (three earned) and eight hits. He also hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.Washington scored three runs in the first inning and did it with only five official at-bats.Trea Turner reached on a bunt single that Nova bobbled, went to third on Jayson Werth’s single down the left field line and scored on Harper’s sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.Nova then hit Anthony Rendon, and Ramos got an infield single to load the bases. Stephen Drew’s single up the middle scored two for a 3-0 lead.Josh Bell’s first-pitch homer to right in the third pulled the Pirates within 3-1.The Nationals added three unearned runs in the fourth — thanks to two Pittsburgh throwing errors — to make it 6-1. Werth and Harper got RBIs on fielder’s choices and Rendon brought home a run with a sacrifice fly.NOTES: Washington 2B Daniel Murphy (buttocks strain) missed his sixth consecutive game. … Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg (elbow) played catch for the second day in a row. He had been doing that every other day lately. … Pirates SS Jordy Mercer was out of the lineup because of a forearm injury. He was able to pinch-hit on Friday. … Pittsburgh RF Gregory Polanco, who left in the first inning Friday because of a facial contusion, was not in the lineup. … Pirates LF Starling Marte missed his second straight game after leaving Thursday’s game because of recurring back tightness. … As of Saturday’s pregame, the Nationals had not named a starter for Sunday’s series finale. RHP A.J. Cole and RHP Tanner Roark appear to be possibilities.