PITTSBURGH ( Associated Press) — Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell scored three each as the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-2 on Friday night.
The top four hitters in the national lineup each – Cesar Hernandez, Juan Soto, Cruz and Bell – had two hits, combining to go 8 for 17.
Washington manager Dave Martinez thinks Hernandez sets the tone as the leadoff hitter. Hernandez was signed in the offseason.
“Key to that, don’t try to do too much, just go to base,” Martinez said. “Right now, he’s holding onto the ball with two strikes, hitting the ball to the other side and trying to get to base, which is awesome.”
Eric Fedde (1-0) allowed two runs and four hits in five innings, hit a six and scored two runs.
Three pitchers combined for four unscored innings of one hit relief.
“They were awesome,” Martinez said of the trio of Sean Doolittle, Austin Voth and Paolo Espino. “I have complete faith in those people in the world.”
Mitch Keller (0-2) struggled for his second straight start, conceding four runs, seven hits and three runs in 3 2/3 innings. His ERA is 9.39 after two starts.
Keller said, ‘I’m cool with the way I’m throwing right now. “I feel really good. There were seven singles today. I just have to keep moving forward.”
The Nationals had four straight singles to start the game, which included hits from RBI by Cruz and Bell. Cruz scored another run in the third to take a 3-0 lead.
“When it heats up, it’s a sight to behold,” Martinez said of Cruz, signed as a free agent during the off-season. “He is a professional hitter and has a lot of RBI for a reason. He and Josh Bell are swinging the bat really well.
Hoy Park held responsible for the Pirates’ scoring with a two-run double in the second.
Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said, “We put Fede on the ropes several times and he had to execute the pitches and we couldn’t hit big.”
The Nationals broke the game in the middle inning, taking their lead to 7-2. Cruz scored a run with a groundout in the fourth, Yadeel Hernandez doubled and scored on Len Thomas’ double in the fifth, and Bell delivered a two-run single in the sixth, with base loads.
Bell has reached base in each of the national nine sports. He played for the Pirates from 2016-20 and made his 2019 All-Star Game debut.
“We’re where we want to be,” Cruz said of the crime. “It’s the start of the season, but we’re doing good things: getting to base, finding ways to score runs. That’s what we need to do.”
Time off for Robles
National center fielder Victor Robles did not start for the second game in a row. Instead, he did extensive pre-game work with hitting coach Darnell Coles.
Robles has played 15 at-bats so far this season. He also batted .209 in 159 matches in the last two seasons.
The Nationals placed infielder/outfielder Dee Strange-Gordon (illness) on the 10-day injured list and recalled outfielder Donovan Casey from Triple-A Rochester. Casey was one of four prospects acquired in the trade of Max Scherzer and Tree Turner from the Los Angeles Dodgers last July.
Washington also claimed to have exempted outfielder Josh Palacios from Toronto and selected him for Rochester. Palacios made his major league debut last season, playing eight games for the Blue Jays.
Nationals: Martinez said Strange-Gordon was feeling better on Friday, a day after being scratched from the lineup, but was unable to comment further.
Pirates: C Roberto Perez (left quadriceps injury) left the game in the second inning after hitting Cruz’s foul tip … LHP Sam Howard (middle back muscle strain) took a rehab at Low-A Bradenton Work started. … Anthony Alford (right wrist strain) has started bat swinging and could go to rehab work next week.
Nationals: LHP Josh Rogers (1-0, 1.69 ERA) starting Saturday. He scored two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings last season in his lone appearance against the Pirates.
Pirates: RHP Bryce Wilson (0-0, 6.75 ERA) will make his second start of the season after conceding three runs in four innings at St.
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