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Nationals are victims of a bizarre appeal game, Bryan Reynolds’ hottie

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The Washington Nationals won the first two games of their three-game streak against the Pittsburgh Pirates with an untenable formula — leaving runners in goal position early only to have late clutch hits to narrowly escape.

So the hosts took a more conventional route at Nationals Park on Wednesday, scoring 16 goals. The trouble was, Bryan Reynolds blasted three home runs and almost single-handedly prevented Washington from ending a streak with an 8-7 Pirates win.

The Nationals went 2 for 22 on Wednesday with runners in goal position in their first two games but won both. Washington finished the matinee 7 for 14 and still lost.

Reynolds did his damage with three different pitchers — a two-run home run to left center by Paolo Espino in the first inning, a solo shot to the right by Carl Edwards Jr. in the sixth, and a three-run blast in the seventh. An opposite field shot in the visitors’ bullpen that saw Kyle Finnegan hang his head as soon as his court made contact with Reynolds’ stick. The last homer proved the difference, although the Nationals (29-49) made the late innings interesting.

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Yadiel Hernandez hit a solo home run in the seventh to bring the Nationals to one. They invited the bases in with two outs in game eight, but Luis García flew to the left to end the threat.

“Even in the last inning I thought we were going to come back and at least tie the game, but it didn’t happen,” said manager Dave Martinez. “I’m proud of how the boys play.”

The one-run loss was even harder to digest given what was revealed at the end of the fifth inning. With runners in second and third and one out, Josh Bell caught a sinking line drive from Ke’Bryan Hayes. Both runners took off on the swing, so Bell threw in third baseman Ehire Adrianza for what appeared to be a third out.

Adrianza tagged Hoy Park first before tagging third base. The referees said they never saw Adrianza tag the base, although Adrianza said after the game that he did. Rule 5.09(c)(4) states that a defensive team must formally appeal or tag a runner who leaves base early, even if it would technically count as a fourth out of an inning.

Jack Suwinski scored from third right before Park was substituted, and since the Nationals didn’t officially object to his leaving base early, the run counted.

Still, Washington had plenty of opportunities in a back-and-forth contest.

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After Reynolds’ first home run, Washington recorded five hits from Pirates starter Mitch Keller. Bell doubled and Nelson Cruz singled on the next pitch to score Bell. Then Cruz came in to meet Keibert Ruiz’ single to end the game at 2.

Juan Soto, who started Wednesday at 7 for 56 (.125) with runners in goal position, doubled with two outs in the second inning to score Adrianza. But the Pirates took the lead after Daniel Vogelbach’s home run in the fourth ahead of Espino and the bizarre sequence that made up a run in the fifth.

The Nationals prevailed at the end of the inning after run-scoring hits from Ruiz and Yadiel Hernandez, and both had chances to score with two outs on César Hernández’s bloop single.

Ruiz thought someone was out in the inning and was waiting for the ball to drop, so Hernandez was right behind him and they both ran home. Ruiz just hit the throw from left field but Hernandez was tagged at home.

Reynolds hit a homer in each of the next two innings, and eventually the Nationals ran out of answers.

“Today was his day,” said Ruiz.

“We had 16 hits, had seven runs,” Bell said. “Yes, we could have met more. I mean there are always opportunities to do more runs. But I think it seemed like we had a lot to make up for. And I’ll just leave it at that.”

What else does rule 5.09(c)(4) say about an appeal? A lot. “Appeal games may require a referee to recognize an apparent ‘fourth out’. If the third out is made during a play in which an appeal play is maintained against another runner, the appeal play decision takes precedence in determining the out. If there is more than one appeal during a game ending half an inning, the defense may choose to take the out that gives them the advantage. For purposes of this rule, when the pitcher and all infielders have left fair territory en route to the bench or clubhouse, the defensive team is “off the field.”

How has Mason Thompson fared in his rehab stints? Thompson (biceps tendonitis) made his third appearance in the past seven days for Class AAA Rochester on Tuesday night. He pitched two innings and allowed two hits but recorded his third scoreless outing with the Red Wings. Martinez said his next step will be to pitch and throw multiple innings on consecutive days.