The Pittsburgh Pirates have won just two of their first five games heading into a four-games series against the visiting Washington Nationals that opens Thursday.

While not much has gone right for the Pirates in recent seasons, they so far have seemed to hit the right tone in crowning 25-year-old third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes a cornerstone of the franchise.

One day after the Pirates signed Hayes to a big contract extension — nine years for $70 million – Hayes went 4-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored in a 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.

His teammates showed up and lined the walls in the Pirates’ press conference room Tuesday morning for the Hayes’ announcement.

“He is one of the good guys,” Pittsburgh pitcher Wil Crowe told AT&T Sportsnet. “We all love him to death. He’s a little quiet sometimes, but when he speaks everybody listens. We love him and are excited for him. The next couple years are going to be fun with him.”

Crowe, meantime, seems to be making a successful transition from starter to reliever, as he picked up his first professional save Wednesday, striking out four in three innings of work. In seven innings over three appearances out of the pen, Crowe has yet to allow an earned run.

Washington, after losing its first three games, has won three of four, including a 3-1 victory Wednesday in Atlanta.

In Thursday’s series opener, Washington right-hander Joan Adon (0-1, 8.31 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pittsburgh right-hander JT Brubaker (0-1, 12.00 ERA).

This will be Adon’s first career road start, his third game and start overall, and first time facing Pittsburgh.

In his first outing this year, Adon gave up four hits and four runs (on a grand slam) in 4 1/3 innings in drawing the loss Saturday, a 5-0 decision against the New York Mets. He struck out three and walked four.

At 23, Adon is young to have earned a spot in Washington’s rotation, but the team is high on him, including his major league debut in last year’s season finale, when he gave up two runs and struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings against Boston.

“Adon, for me, is a guy that’s young that we see that has a future here,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “When he’s good, he’s fastball-heavy.

“He throws his fastball, it’s late, it’s explosive. We always say, it kind of gets on hitters fairly quickly and you can see that. So we like that.”

Adon relishes the chance to make his second start Thursday.

“This is what I do. This is what I love to do,” Adon told “This is what I love doing. Why would I be nervous?”

Brubaker was Pittsburgh’s Opening Day starter, but he was closed down fairly quickly. He allowed four runs and four hits in three innings, with two strikeouts and four walks, in a 9-0 loss in St. Louis.

In his third year with the Pirates, he has faced the Nationals just once, a no-decision last June 14 when he gave up two runs in five innings.

–Field Level Media