Pirates fall to Nats

PITTSBURGH (AP) — In his first two starts after coming off the disabled list in late June, Washington Nationals starter Jeremy Hellickson allowed 12 runs over 8 2/3 innings.

He reversed that trend in a big way Tuesday night, tossing five innings of two-hit ball in a 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hellickson (3-1) struck out three and induced seven ground balls as he was both effective and efficient, finishing his outing at 67 pitches.

After losing eight of nine, Washington has won four of its last six.

The Nationals could afford to pull Hellickson early thanks to the big lead provided by Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy and company.

In the fifth inning, Rendon hit at two-run homer, his 13th of the season. Murphy contributed a hit to a three-run sixth as part of a 4-for-4 night that included two doubles.

It was a big night for Murphy, who hasn’t been able to get his bat going since returning in June from offseason knee surgery. The four-hit outing raised his batting average to a season-high .250.

Pirates reliever Steven Brault walked in a pair of runs in the sixth and Adam Eaton added on with an RBI single.

Rendon’s homer was the only damage against Pirates starter Joe Musgrove (3-4), who struck out a career-high nine over five innings.

It was Musgrove’s first outing back from a trip to the disabled list for a finger infection. An elevated pitch count, including 27 in the first inning, led to his early exit.

“With the pitch count up, I was getting tired after two innings and working a lot harder than I would have liked to,” Musgrove said.

The Pirates loaded the bases in the ninth, but newly installed closer Kelvin Herrera struck out Francisco Cervelli to end it.