Pirates take two of three from Nats

Marte’s home run accounts for both scores in 2-0 win

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Starling Marte did not start any of the first three games of July because Pirates manager Clint Hurdle felt his slumping center fielder needed a mental break.

The strategy worked, even if Marte still doesn’t agree with it.

Marte hit a two-run home run and Trevor Williams combined with four relievers on a five-hitter as Pittsburgh beat the Washington Nationals 2-0 on Wednesday.

Marte homered to deep center field, his 11th, with two outs in the third off Gio Gonzalez after Jordy Mercer led off the inning with the first of his two doubles. That was enough to give the Pirates just their third win in nine games.

Since returning to the lineup, Marte has at least a hit in all seven games, going 12 for 26 (.462).

“Personally, I don’t think it’s to my benefit to have days off,” Marte said through a translator. “I like to play every day, but I do realize there are pros to having days off and I’ve been reaping the benefits of it over the last week.”

“It gave him some time to work on his (hitting) approach and iron some things out,” Hurdle said. “He hit the reset button, got a fresh start.”

Williams (7-7) won for just the second time in his past 10 starts, giving up four hits with three strikeouts and three walks. He is 2-5 with a 6.26 ERA in that span after going 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA in his first nine outings.

“The ball seemed to be coming out of my hand better,” Williams said. “I was executing pitches. That’s always the key, whether you throw 101 (mph) or 85. You have to execute pitches to be successful.”

Gonzalez (6-6) remained winless since May 28 despite allowing just two runs, six hits and one walk while striking out four. The left-hander is 0-4 in his past eight starts.

Though disappointed by the outcome, Gonzalez was heartened by his performance.

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