Pirates-Nationals Preview

Davey Johnson has finally secured his first win as manager of

the Washington Nationals. He’ll have two chances Saturday to try

and even the record at his latest stop.

Following a nail-biter in the series opener, the Nationals and

Pittsburgh Pirates square off in a doubleheader in the nation’s

capital.

Johnson took over Monday for John McLaren, who served three

games as interim manager after Jim Riggleman quit in a contract

dispute June 23. The Nationals totaled eight runs while losing

Johnson’s first three games against the Los Angeles Angels.

The Nationals again didn’t produce much at the plate Friday

night, but finally delivered Johnson’s elusive first win with a 2-1

victory. Pinch-hitter Matt Stairs’ one-out drive off the wall in

the ninth inning scored pinch runner Alex Cora and lifted

Washington (41-41) to its 11th win in 12 games at Nationals

Park.

Solid pitching also helped. Tom Gorzelanny snapped a four-start

losing streak after yielding a run and six hits with a season

high-tying eight strikeouts over seven innings on a humid

night.

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

leash with me,” Johnson said after his first win since Sept. 30,

2000, with the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I’m expecting more out of

them.”

After a shaky start in front of his new manager, John Lannan

(5-5, 3.48) will try to bounce back for Washington in the first

game.

The left-hander had been 3-0 with a 1.18 ERA in his previous six

games before facing the Angels on Monday. Lannan allowed three runs

and a season-high 11 hits in 5 2-3 innings as the Nationals lost

4-3 in 10 to spoil Johnson’s managerial debut.

“It seemed like I always had runners on, but the defense kept

picking me up and I was able to make pitches when I needed to. But

it was a battle tonight,” Lannan said.

Lannan lost at Pittsburgh on April 25, and failed to get a

decision against the Pirates on May 16 in Washington.

Looking for his third win in four starts following a dismal

five-week stretch, Livan Hernandez (5-8, 3.81) will take the ball

for the Nationals in the nightcap.

Hernandez had been 0-6 in eight starts before firing a

three-hitter to beat St. Louis on June 15. He didn’t get a decision

in his next game, but beat the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. The

right-hander allowed a run and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings as

Washington won 2-1.

Hernandez lost to Pittsburgh on April 23, dropping to 5-6 with a

5.55 ERA in 17 games against the Pirates.

Alex Presley knocked in the only run Friday for the Pirates

(41-40), who went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position. They

also failed to get three games over .500, falling to 0-7 when two

games above the break-even mark.

James McDonald (5-4, 4.52 ERA) will try to keep Pittsburgh over

.500 when he takes the mound in the opener.

The right-hander is 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA in his last four starts.

He gave up two unearned runs and five hits over six innings Sunday,

but committed one of the Pirates’ season high-tying four errors and

didn’t get a decision in a 4-2 loss to Boston.

McDonald will start against the Nationals for the first

time.

Pittsburgh is expected to recall Brad Lincoln from Triple-A

Indianapolis to start the second game.

The right-hander will face the team he made his first big league

appearance against last season. Lincoln was tagged for five runs

and seven hits in six innings, but didn’t receive a decision in the

Pirates’ 7-5 loss in Washington on June 9, 2010.

Lincoln was 1-4 with a 6.66 ERA in 11 games – nine starts – for

the Pirates.