Nationals 4, Pirates 3
With every jog back to the dugout after yet another fruitless trip to the plate, the hometown boos get louder for Jayson Werth.
Davey Johnson understands. Less than one week into the job as the Washington Nationals manager, he's practically giving a thumbs-down review to the entire lineup.
The Nationals scored their runs on two groundouts and an error on a double steal before pinch-hitter Ivan Rodriguez finally drove in someone with authority, singling to right field to bring home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates that salvaged a split in Saturday's doubleheader.
''It was terrible,'' said Johnson, who is 2-4 since taking over in Washington. ''We would have the right guys up, with men in the scoring position, and we just didn't get it done. We had to score on groundballs in the infield and break up double plays. We didn't really drive anybody in, except for Pudge.
''I know it's going to get better. I'm optimistic,'' he added. ''I wanted to score runs. I'm kind of an offensive manager, and I'm having to open up a new play book, and it's not one I like. I have to steal and hope they throw it away to get a run across.''
The Nationals went 4 for 18 with runners in scoring position in the doubleheader, with Pirates winning the first game 5-3. It was Pittsburgh's first twinbill in Washington since they split with an early incantation of the National League Senators at Boundary Field on May 19, 1899, and at times the home team's attack looked 19th Century primitive.
Baring the brunt of it was Werth, the player with the seven-year, $126 million contract who is hitting .165 since June 1 and .224 for the season. Johnson tried batting Werth fifth for the first time this season in Game 2, and it didn't help.
Strikeout in the fourth. Strikeout in the sixth. Flyout in the eighth with the Nationals trailing and a runner on base. He went 0 for 3 with a walk, doffing his helmet toward the booing fans as he made his way down the dugout steps after his last at-bat.
''Nah, not tonight,'' Werth said as reporters approached his locker.
''He's a great ballplayer, and he's going to get it going,'' Johnson said. ''He takes it as hard as anybody around here. He works hard. He's a gamer. He's going to be fine. But that's part of the game. When you're going good, they cheer you. When you're not going so good, they boo you.''
Livan Hernandez and John Lannan became the latest Nationals starters to have a good outing go to waste. Hernandez allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings - the first earned runs allowed by Washington's pitching staff in three games - but didn't get the decision in the opener. Lannan gave up three runs and six hits over seven innings in the second game.
Ryan Mattheus (1-0) pitched the eighth inning in Game 2 to get his first major league win, and Drew Storen handled the ninth for his 20th save.
Tony Watson (0-1) took the loss in the nightcap for the Pirates, who started five rookies in the nightcap. Brad Lincoln, recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis for the game, allowed two runs over six innings in his season debut. The key error came when converted outfielder Eric Fryer, playing only his third game as a catcher in the majors, threw into left field for an error when the Nationals pulled off a double steal. Pinch-runner Brian Bixler scored on the play.
''It's on-the-job training,'' Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. ''They're getting experience right away - at the highest level - and they're also learning some things every day because it can be a little different game from time to time.''
The Game 1 win put Pittsburgh two games above .500 for the eighth time this season - they're now 0-8 when they try to get three games above the break-even mark.
In the opener, Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen hit back-to-back homers off Sean Burnett (3-5) in the eighth inning, and James McDonald had a strong outing for Pirates. Jones entered the game hitting .129 against lefties, with no homers and two RBIs, but he took the lefty reliever the opposite way and put one into the red seats in left center. Burnett had only allowed one home run all season.
Jose Veras (2-2) pitched 1 2-3 innings to get the win. Joel Hanrahan gave up one run in the ninth but still got his 24th save in 24 chances this season, tying the club record for consecutive saves opportunities converted.
Meanwhile, Johnson has to feel fortunate that the Nationals are back at .500 with so many regulars hitting in the low .200s.
''We've had more downs than ups,'' he said. ''But we're hanging in there.''
NOTES: McCutchen hit for a ''doubleheader cycle'' - home run and double in Game 1; triple, double and single in Game 2. ... The Pirates placed SS Ronny Cedeno on the 7-day concussion disabled list. He was injured trying to break up a double play in Friday's game. Pittsburgh recalled INF Pedro Ciriaco from Triple-A Indianapolis. ... RHP Tim Wood was optioned to Indianapolis to make room for Lincoln. ... Pirates OF Xavier Paul, who had missed the last three games with tightness in his right hamstring, entered the first game in the eighth inning. ... Nationals reliever Henry Rodriguez was unavailable because of strep throat. ... Nationals RHP Chien-Ming Wang made his second rehab start Saturday, throwing four scoreless innings at for Single-A Potomac.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP