Pirates-Nationals Preview

The Washington Nationals are winless under new manager Davey

Johnson. A visit from the Pittsburgh Pirates could help change

that.

Washington looks for its sixth straight home win over the

Pirates in Johnson’s Nationals Park debut Friday night.

Washington (40-41) had won 11 of 12 when manager Jim Riggleman

abruptly resigned last week because he was unhappy with his

contract situation. The Nationals took two of three from the White

Sox under interim manager John McLaren before the 68-year-old

Johnson took over Monday in Anaheim.

The Nationals were swept in three games by the Angels with

Johnson at the helm, losing a pair of one-run affairs and getting

blown out in the other.

Despite that series, Johnson’s players remain confident.

“Davey’s a good baseball man and he’s going to be a good manager

of this club,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “I guess you could

call this a bump in the road. It’s a new situation for him, but

everybody is comfortable.”

Johnson has plenty of faith in a Nationals team that finished

the month 17-10 for its first winning June since 2005.

“It’s a great ballclub,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got a few

things we’ve got to straighten out, and we’ll be fine.

“So I’m 0 for 3. I plan on rectifying that.”

That could start versus Pittsburgh (41-39), which despite a

22-19 road record this season has dropped five straight in

Washington.

Facing the Pirates could help jump-start Werth, who has struck

out nine times during a 1-for-18 stretch while dealing with knee

and hip soreness. Werth, is 4 for 7 with two doubles in his last

two games against the Pirates.

Tom Gorzelanny (2-6, 4.18 ERA) looks to avoid a fifth

consecutive losing start Friday for the Nationals. The left-hander

is 0-4 with a 6.00 ERA in five starts – all Washington defeats –

since winning at Florida on May 7. He pitched effectively Saturday,

allowing one run and striking out eight in seven innings, but got

charged with a 3-0 loss to the White Sox.

The ex-Pirate, who pitched for them from 2005-09, is 1-0 with a

3.06 ERA in four starts against his former team.

Pittsburgh comes to the nation’s capital after taking two of

three at Toronto for its first winning interleague road series

since 2003. Brandon Wood hit a two-run homer as the Pirates won 6-2

on Thursday, their sixth victory in eight games overall.

They continue to surprise, and only two games behind NL Central

co-leaders Milwaukee and St. Louis.

“We know no one else thinks we’re in a race at all, but we’re

hoping to be here to stay,” said outfielder Matt Diaz, who had two

hits Thursday.

Shortstop Ronny Cedeno, who had an RBI double, is batting .483

with five RBIs in his last 10 games. He’s 5 for 14 with three

doubles and two RBIs in the season series versus Washington.

Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.77) makes his first start in 11 days for

the Pirates after being skipped because of fatigue. The

right-hander allowed seven runs in two innings of an 8-3 loss to

Baltimore on June 20.

Morton has already pitched 86 innings – 11 shy of his career

high set in 2009.

“Charlie has pitched a large volume of innings for his history,”

manager Clint Hurdle told the Pirates’ official website. “You find

ways to try to find preventative maintenance of injury. That’s what

we’re trying to do.”

Morton has lost both of his career starts against the Nationals,

allowing 10 runs – six earned – in 9 2-3 innings.