WASHINGTON (AP) - James McDonald had a nasty curveball Thursday night, and the Washington Nationals couldn't lay off.
McDonald took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and struck out a career-high 11, and the Pittsburgh Pirates got two home runs from Andrew McCutchen in a 5-3 victory.
McDonald retired his first 13 batters - striking out nine - and was helped by two spectacular plays on defense, from Casey McGehee at first base and McCutchen in center field. The right-hander walked Bryce Harper with one out in the fifth.
``We were swinging at his curveball. His curveball wasn't in the strike zone,' Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Carrying a 4-0 lead in the sixth, McDonald weakened and allowed consecutive doubles to Jesus Flores and Steve Lombardozzi to start the inning. Flores held at third because he wasn't sure Lombardozzi's ball was going to drop. Ryan Zimmerman's single drove in both runners, and Adam LaRoche's triple scored Zimmerman.
McDonald (3-2) was pulled after 5 2-3 innings. He gave up three runs and four hits with one walk.
``Every now and then, there's a guy that gets hot and has a good out pitch, like he did tonight,' Zimmerman said.
Tony Watson retired the final batter of the sixth. Juan Cruz pitched a scoreless seventh, Jason Grilli worked the eighth and Joel Hanrahan the ninth for his eighth save in nine chances.
Jordan Zimmermann (2-4) gave up a season-high four runs and seven hits in six innings, walking one and striking out six.
``I didn't feel very good at all,' Zimmermann said. ``When you can't locate your fastball at all, you're going to be in trouble - and it's going to be a long game.'
Johnson was puzzled by the poor outing from his right-hander.
``That's the worst I've seen him with his command early in a ballgame,' Johnson said. ``His location was off. He was all over the place.'
The Nationals usually support Zimmermann poorly. In six of his previous seven starts, they'd scored two runs or fewer for him. On Thursday, they scored three.
``We had runners on. We just couldn't get a big hit,' Johnson said.
Washington left six runners on in the final four innings and had runners on first and second with one out in ninth, but Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez made a nice catch on Lombardozzi's foul near the third base stands.
McCutchen hit a two-out shot into the right-field bullpen in the first and led off the sixth with his second homer of the game. He has five this season and continued his torrid hitting against the Nationals. He's batting .442 with 10 home runs in 23 games against Washington. He is 10 for 17 this season.
``You pitch him away, and he hits it away,' Zimmerman said. ``He's one of those special players that can do everything. He's fun to watch. I just wish we didn't have to watch so much when we play them.'
It was the last game of the season between the teams, and Johnson is happy to have seen the last of McCutchen for 2012.
``We certainly haven't figured out how to pitch him,' Johnson said. ``He looks awful comfortable in there.'
Rod Barajas added a two-run homer in the fourth, his third. He had three hits.
Neil Walker drove in the fifth run for Pittsburgh in the seventh on an infield out.
NOTES: Nationals OF Michael Morse, who hasn't played this season because of an injured back muscle, will probably report to Viera, Fla., early next week to begin playing in games, Johnson. He had hoped Morse would return to be the designated hitter when the Nationals play in Boston on June 8, but Morse told Johnson he could play a week earlier. ... Washington INF Mark DeRosa is probably a week from returning from a left oblique strain, Johnson said. ... The Nationals play a three-game series against the Orioles beginning Friday. Washington RHP Edwin Jackson pitches against RHP Jake Arrieta. ... The Pirates open a three-game series in Detroit on Friday. Pittsburgh will send RHP Charlie Morton to the mound against Justin Verlander.
The Associated Press News Service
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