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Nationals salvage series split

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WASHINGTON—A promising road trip might have gone even better if not for Arizona right-hander Jeremy Hellickson’s recent struggles.

Hellickson laboured for a second-straight start, allowing four runs on 104 pitches while failing to finish the fifth inning in the Diamondbacks’ 8-3 loss to the Washington Nationals yesterday afternoon.

“Just working way too hard out there right now,” said Hellickson (7-8), who allowed five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings.

“I felt like the bases were loaded every inning.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered and Ender Inciarte had two hits, including a two-run double, as Arizona settled for a four-game split against Washington and a 6-4 finish to a 10-game, bi-coastal road swing.

Brad Ziegler gave up three eighth-inning runs outside of his typical closer role—perhaps denying Paul Goldschmidt a chance to pinch-hit in the ninth after manager Chip Hale gave the star slugger a rare off day.

Outfielder A.J. Pollock also was out of the lineup before pinch-hitting in the eighth.

“We knew coming in that two of our top guys we were going to give a rest to,” said Hale, whose team could have pulled within a game of .500 with a win.

“I thought the guys did a good job to stay in the game,” he added.

“But yeah, overall it was a good road trip.”

For the Nationals, Ian Desmond homered, Bryce Harper reached base five times, and Wilson Ramos hit a crucial two-run single that ended Hellickson’s day.

Rookie Joe Ross (3-3) allowed a run over six innings.

The victory enabled the struggling Nats, who had lost four of their past five games, to split the series and move within 1.5 games of the idle front-running N.Y. Mets in the NL East.

Hellickson could have escaped the fifth when his 0-2 curveball in the dirt fooled Nationals’ batter Jayson Werth.

But the ball skipped away from catcher Oscar Hernandez—allowing Werth to reach first and Harper to move from second to third.

Asked if Hernandez should have blocked the pitch, Hale replied: “It’s not easy. Do I expect it? Probably, yeah.”

Desmond then walked to load the bases before Ramos lifted a single into left to score Harper and Werth.

Two innings later, Inciarte’s bases-loaded double off Casey Janssen closed Arizona to within 4-3.

But Matt Thornton came on to get the final two outs of the seventh before Washington added to its lead late.

“Guys just kept fighting to the end offensively,” said Diamondbacks’ second baseman Aaron Hill.

“It feels like this team just keeps getting a little bit better as we go on.”

Elsewhere in the NL, St. Louis blanked Cincinnati 3-0, L.A. beat Philadelphia 10-8, Milwaukee bombed San Diego 10-1, Atlanta topped Miami 9-8, and Chicago edged San Francisco 5-4.

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