Nationals 2, Pirates 1

The outcome was similar. The approach was different. The record

is .500 once again. After a 2-1 ninth-inning victory in his

Washington Nationals home managerial debut, Davey Johnson had only

one thing left to do to make it a truly successful evening.

He had to find his way home.

”That’ll be a celebration,” he said after Friday’s victory

over the Pittsburgh Pirates. ”I think I go down K Street. How do I

get to K Street?”

Negotiating the tricky one-way roads of the nation’s capital

might be a challenge, but Johnson needs no GPS when it comes to

managing. Yes, in a way they were the same old woeful-hitting,

decent-pitching Nationals, who now have played an incredible 11

games since June 1 in which is the final score has been 2-1, 2-0 or

1-0.

But a closer look at the box score shows some subtle differences

under Johnson, who is 1-3 as interim manager since accepting the

job following Jim Riggleman’s abrupt resignation last week.

For one thing, he let Tom Gorzelanny pitch seven innings on a

humid night. The left-hander, who had lost four straight starts,

rewarded his manager’s trust with by finishing strong, striking out

the last two batters he faced.

”I told all the other starters they’re going to be on a longer

leash with me,” Johnson said. ”I’m expecting more out of them. I

know all your guys were up there second-guessing me. … I go the

extra yard for them. I want them to know that. I want to give him

an opportunity to win.”

Instead, Gorzelanny became the latest Nationals starter to have

a solid outing fail to make a positive dent in the won-loss record.

He finished with eight strikeouts, yielding an unearned run and six

hits. He became the second straight Washington starter to not allow

an unearned run without getting the win – Jordan Zimmermann took a

1-0 loss on Wednesday.

Johnson’s other leap of faith was using Matt Stairs as a pinch

hitter with the game tied in the ninth. The 43-year-old veteran has

struggled at the plate all year, hitting just .132 entering the

game. He was 4 for 32 with no RBIs as a pinch hitter.

Stairs delivered, driving an 0-1 pitch from Tim Wood (0-3) off

the right-field wall to score pinch-runner Alex Cora.

”I have a lot of confidence in Matt. I wanted to get him

going,” Johnson said. ”I think he can hit falling out of bed.

That’s the kind of situation that turns him on. One out, the

winning run on third, he’s the guy I’d like up there, even if he’s

hitting .080.”

Michael Morse led off the ninth with a grounder that hit the

pitching rubber and continued up the middle for a single. With

Danny Espinosa squared to bunt, Wood threw well inside for a wild

pitch that sent Morse to second. Espinosa was intentionally walked,

then Cora – running for Morse – advanced to third on Wilson Ramos’

flyout to right.

Stairs then provided the latest dramatic win for the Nationals,

who are outscoring opponents 56-25 from the ninth inning

onward.

A further indication of the type of games Washington plays:

Closer Drew Storen (5-2) pitched the ninth and got another win

instead of a save.

Pirates starter Charlie Morton was also effective, allowing

three hits over 5 2-3 innings. His only mistake was a first-pitch

fastball that Roger Bernadina deposited in the center-field stands

leading off the sixth, the first homer given up by the right-hander

in 69 1-3 innings.

Pittburgh’s lone run came in the third after Gorzelanny

mishandled Morton’s bunt following Michael McKenry’s leadoff

single. McKenry took third on Gorzelanny’s throw and scored on Alex

Presley’s groundout.

The Nationals were poised to take the lead with two on and

nobody out in the eighth, but Chris Resop came in and shut them

down. Rick Ankiel led off the inning with a single off Daniel

Moskos, and Bernadina reached on an error attempting to sacrifice.

Moskos was then relieved by Resop, who struck out Jayson Werth and

Ryan Zimmerman looking and Laynce Nix swinging.

But, with his bullpen close to empty, Pirates manager Clint

Hurdle went to the ninth with Wood, who had thrown only 7 2-3

innings all season.

”Resop and (Jose) Veras have been in 40 games. They can’t pitch

every night. I’ve got to have other guys contribute. Also, I felt

he could get them out,” Hurdle said. ”You’ve got to pick your

poison on where you want to go from there.”

NOTES: The Pirates (41-40) again failed to get three games over

.500. They are 0-7 this season when two games over. … 1B Morse

made his first error in 215 games on a bad toss to Gorzelanny on a

grounder in the third inning. His last error came on Aug. 15, 2005.

… Pirates 2B Neil Walker, who missed the previous game with a

sore back, entered as a late-inning sub. … Pittsburgh OF Xavier

Paul did not start for the third straight game due to right

hamstring tightness. … Nick Leyva, who normally coaches third

base for the Pirates, has a back injury. For the second straight

game, Luis Silverio coached third and Mark Strittmatter was at

first. … The Nationals also had a different face coaching first.

Trent Jewett took over for Dan Radison, who was fired in the latest

shakeup following Johnson’s hiring. Friday was also the first game

for Pat Corrales as Washington’s new bench coach. Corrales takes

over for John McLaren, who is now a scout.