WASHINGTON — Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle decided to let reliever Evan Meek try to work through the mess the righty created in his first appearance after a trip to the minors.
Didn't quite pan out.
Meek loaded the bases in a tight game by walking two batters and hitting another in the seventh inning, then allowed Adam LaRoche's three-run double – his 1,000th career hit – and Pittsburgh lost to the Washington Nationals 7-4 on Wednesday night.
"It got away from him a little bit, but I wanted to give him a chance to get out of it. He makes a pitch to LaRoche, and he's out of the inning," Hurdle said. "He deserved that opportunity, in my eyes, and I wanted to give it to him."
Washington led 4-3 entering the seventh, when Meek replaced starter Erik Bedard (2-5).
After putting three runners on, Meek faced LaRoche with two outs.
"Hitters know that they're probably going to see a fastball. He was sitting on it," said Meek, who was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game. "I served it up – and he did what he should have done."
Meek, an NL All-Star in 2010, was sent to the minors May 1 with a 5.59 ERA.
LaRoche never has been an All-Star, but he's putting up those types of numbers this season. Hitting cleanup while Michael Morse is on the disabled list, LaRoche leads the Nationals with a .339 batting average, seven homers and 29 RBIs. Talk about a turnaround: LaRoche hit .172 with three homers in 43 games in 2011 before having left shoulder surgery.
He entered Wednesday with 997 career hits, but got things started with a single in the first, then hit a homer in the sixth before getting the milestone hit.
"Shoot, I feel like I've been playing 50 years to get 1,000. I'm serious," said the 32-year-old LaRoche, who's in his ninth season and with his sixth club. "To look at some of these guys – 3,000-plus hits is just unbelievable."
He and Xavier Nady – who were teammates in Pittsburgh from 2007-08 – hit consecutive homers off Bedard in the sixth.
That hit No. 1,000 came against the Pirates "makes it a little bit sweeter," LaRoche said.
For Nady, it was his 100th homer in the majors.
Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (5-1) allowed three runs, four hits and two walks. His 10 strikeouts give him 60 in 2012, surpassing teammate Stephen Strasburg's 56 for the NL lead.
Washington reliever Tyler Clippard let in one run in the eighth, and struggling fill-in closer Henry Rodriguez overcame an error for his ninth save in 12 chances. He ended the game by getting Josh Harrison to ground into a double play.
In the seventh, Gonzalez walked Barajas then gave up Harrison's first homer of the season, a two-run shot to left that made it 4-3. That ended Gonzalez's streak of 58 innings without allowing a homer.
Still, the Pirates' offensive woes continued: They've gone a dozen games without scoring more than five runs in any.
"Some days you're going to feel good. Some days, you're not," Harrison said. "It's a matter of fighting through it."
NOTES: Pittsburgh optioned OF Alex Presley to Indianapolis. Presley was 3 for 42 over his past 15 games. ... Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmermann (2-3) faces Pirates RHP James McDonald (2-2) on Thursday to close the two-game series.