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
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
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
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
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.