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Nationals Crush Pirates in 12-4 Route

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WASHINGTON — Slumping Bryce Harper was moved to the leadoff spot for the first time since 2013 and responded with a three-run homer that helped Max Scherzer win his fifth consecutive start as the Washington Nationals beat the Pirates, 12-4, on Wednesday night.

Harper entered in a 5-for-35 slump and had not gotten an extra-base hit since April 16. He grounded out in the first inning against Chad Kuhl (3-2), followed Wilmer Difo's go-ahead homer in the third with a flyout, then gave the Nationals a 5-0 lead in the fifth with his ninth homer this season.

Harper walked for the major league-leading 39th time this season in the sixth, then left the game with Washington ahead 12-0. He led off in 16 games in 2013, his second major league season.

“Last night I spoke to Harp, and I just came to the conclusion: ‘Why not?' ” Washington manager Dave Martinez said before the game. “He's a little frustrated, and, hopefully, he gets some more pitches to hit.”

Harper raised his batting average to .250. The home run was the fifth of his career from the leadoff slot.

Scherzer (6-1) allowed two runs and three hits in 6 13 innings, striking out eight and walking one as his ERA rose slightly to 1.79. The first six-game winner in the major leagues this year, Scherzer drove in his second run of the season with an RBI single and scored twice.

Corey Dickerson hit a two-run homer off Scherzer in the seventh, and Max Moroff hit a two-run drive against Carlos Torres in the ninth for the Pirates.

Kuhl (3-2) gave up six runs and four hits — all home runs — in 4 23 innings. He had allowed three homers over his five previous starts.

Matt Adams hit two solo home runs for Washington

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