Photo 2009 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

"That's not always easy with nobody out and the bases loaded, but I was trying to get a strikeout there. Luckily, it was a chopper back to me, and we were able to turn two, which is way better." -- Tyler Clippard, on the 1-2-3 double play in the fifth inning.

THE RESULT: Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn homered, and Tyler Clippard threw three perfect innings in relief, including escaping a bases loaded, no out jam in the fifth inning, as the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-4, earning a split of the four-game series, before 11,630 at PNC Park.

Clippard entered the game in the fifth with bases loaded and no outs, courtesy of a single and two walks allowed by starter Garrett Mock (4 IP, 2 ER, 7 hits, 4 BBs, 1 K, 1 HR). Clippard (W, 2-1, 2.52) induced a comeback ground ball from Delwyn Young, he calmly threw to Josh Bard at home to get the force, and Bard relayed to first to complete the double play.

Andy LaRoche then popped up to end the threat.

"That could have changed the game around," Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "That was pretty much the biggest key for us, really. You figure you're getting one run from out of that inning and hope for two so you take a 5-0 lead."

The next inning, Cristian Guzman singled to right field to score Anderson Hernandez from second base, and Dunn hit a three-run home run (27) to take a 4-3 lead off Pirates starter Charlie Morton (L, 2-4, 4.03).

"I was kind of sitting on a pitch, and I got totally the opposite of what I was sitting on," Dunn said. "I have no idea how I hit it out. I just was late; that's why it went over there [left field]. By no means was it a good piece of hitting; it was very good pitching. If I'm not sitting on changeup and I'm sitting on fastball there, I probably pull it into a double play "

Zimmerman hit his 21st home run of the season in the seventh inning off reliever Jeff Karstens, a two-run shot that plated Guzman, who had tripled in Nyjer Morgan the previous at bat.

Elijah Dukes' RBI single two batters later capped the Nats scoring.

McCutcheon hit his fourth home run of the series and four Pirates had multi-hit games.

Mike MacDougal got one out in relief of a struggling Logan Kensing in the ninth inning for his eighth save of the season.

THE TAKEAWAY: The story of the game, despite the offensive fireworks, was Clippard. For the second time in a week, he entered the game early trailing, and pitched multiple outstanding innings, allowing his team a chance to get back in it.

He went three innings and did not give up a hit or a walk, and struck out two. His fastball-changeup combination had the young Pirates batters on their front foot in every at bat.

Mock struggled again, but after giving up three in the first inning, he fought back and stuck around until allowing the first three batters to reach in the fifth. He only threw 46 of his 87 pitches for strikes, and had trouble keeping the ball down all night.

But he avoided what could have been a disaster early on.

THE GOOD: Adam Dunn. 3-for-4 with a three-run home run and a double. He had trouble at first base with some routine plays that would have stood out much more in a loss, but he did what he gets paid to do last night.

THE BAD: Josh Bard. 0-for-5. Six men left on.

THE UGLY: Team defense. Three more errors, one apiece by Dunn and Belliard at first base and a throwing error by Dukes in right.

NEXT GAME: The team returns home for a three-game set with the Florida Marlins tonight. J.D. Martin (0-2, 7.50) faces Josh Johnson (10-2, 2.87) at 7:05 pm.

NOTES: Nick Johnson, traded last week at the non-waiver trade deadline, returns to Nationals Park to face his former teammates for the first time.