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PIT@WSH: Harrison cranks a two-run shot to left field

WASHINGTON -- Erik Bedard did better this time. Back spasms stopped the left-hander from making it out of the second inning in his last start, but Bedard looked more like his old self when taking the mound again on Wednesday.

Bedard went six innings and kept the Pirates in the game. He retired 11 straight Washington batters at one point, but gave up three homers, something that helped Washington take a 7-4 victory over the Pirates before 25,942 at Nationals Park.

The left-hander's last start came last Wednesday. He needed to come out after only one-plus innings because of the back spasms. Manager Clint Hurdle and the Pirates gave Bedard a few extra days of rest, and he threw six strong innings in the series opener.

"Erik was fit for duty, no complications and no issues," Hurdle said. "He pitched a pretty good ballgame. For being off the time he was, he gave us a competitive effort today."

Bedard allowed four runs on six hits. He also struck out seven and walked just one. Bedard threw 92 pitches, 62 of which were strikes as he stayed ahead in the count throughout the night.

"I felt good, just tried to battle and throw strikes," Bedard said. "Last time, it was nine days later I was pitching, and this time, it was a little less, and I was fine."

His back was fine, but the three home runs hurt Bedard (2-5) and the Pirates (17-20). Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Xavier Navy all hit solo homers that helped the Nationals to a 4-1 lead after six innings. LaRoche added a three-run double off reliever Evan Meek in the seventh to give Washington (23-14) a 7-3 lead.

LaRoche and Nady's bombs were back-to-back shots in the sixth after Bedard had struck out four straight batters. Before the two homers, Bedard had retired 11 straight batters.

The big double for LaRoche was the former Pirate's 1,000th career hit, and former Pirate Nady's homer was the 100th of his career.

That proved to be more than enough for Washington starter Gio Gonzalez (5-1). The Pirates got to him a little, scoring three runs in his seven innings -- all driven in by Josh Harrison -- but the left-hander essentially shut down the Pirates like he's kept most lineups quiet this season.

Gonzalez struck out 10 and walked just two, staying ahead of most hitters and not giving the Pirates much to swing at.

"You don't see a lot of left-handers that can go 92, 94 [mph], and pitch it in," Hurdle said. "He had a very, very good changeup tonight. And also, the breaking ball's in play, so that's a lot to cover."

Ryan Zimmerman's RBI groundout in the first scored Bryce Harper after the rookie hit his first Major League triple, giving the Nats a 1-0 lead. Desmond homered in the fourth to make it 2-0 before Harrison's RBI single in the fifth. The back-to-back homers in the sixth gave Washington a 4-1 lead before Harrison struck again.

Harrison lined a two-run shot off Gonzalez over the left-field bullpen to cut the lead to 4-3 in the seventh. The third baseman -- who moved to left field later in the game-- finished 2-for-4 and is hitting .333 in his last eight games.

"It's baseball, it's a game of ups and downs," Harrison said. "It's a matter of battling and fighting through it. The past couple of games, I've been feeling pretty good."

Meek came on in the bottom of the seventh after being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis earlier in the day. He hit Jesus Flores to start the inning, but got the first two outs before walking Harper and Zimmerman to load the bases.

Hurdle said he wanted to give Meek a chance to get out of the inning, but LaRoche yanked a three-run double down the right-field line. He finished with four RBIs along with getting his memorable hit.

"It was pretty special," LaRoche said. "And to do it here at home, and with the win on top of it. [Nady] getting his 100th home run, it's such a perfect night."

It wasn't perfect for the Pirates, but there were some good things to take from the game.

The offensive problems that have dogged them all year weren't as bad in this game. They got three runs off one of the best starters in the National League, one more off All-Star relief pitcher Tyler Clippard in the eighth on a Casey McGehee sacrifice fly, and saw one of their top pitchers throw well again.

"I was very pleased with his effort," Hurdle said about Bedard. "[As a team] we were showing some grit, we were continuing to battle. We've got to stay in that vein, stay in that mind-set."

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