WASHINGTON (AP) - Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle took a chance by starting five rookies in the second game of the doubleheader against the Nationals after winning the opener.
The Pirates took a one-run lead into the eighth inning but a hit batsman, two walks, a double steal and two errors helped the Nationals score twice to beat Pittsburgh 4-3 for a split of the two games.
``It's on-the-job training,' 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.'
Hurdle has used seven catchers this season - and his seventh - converted outfielder Eric Fryer playing just his third major league game behind the plate - threw a ball into left field on a double steal in the eighth inning.
``I figured they were going to try and push the envelope,' Fryer said. ``I didn't really get a good grip on the ball. Instead of going with it or eating it, I changed my arm angle and spiked it.'
Ivan Rodriguez drove in the go-ahead run as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. Rodriguez's single to right scored Rick Ankiel to cap a two-run rally.
In the first game, Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen hit back-to-back homers in the eighth inning, and James McDonald had a strong outing in the Pirates' 5-3 victory. That win put Pittsburgh two games over .500 for the eighth time this season, but they are now 0-8 trying to get to three above the break-even mark.
``We just talk about closing out ballgames,' Hurdle said. ``We were up in the eighth. We plan on winning when we get up in the eighth.'
The doubleheader was Pittsburgh's first in Washington since they split with an early incantation of the National League Senators at Boundary Field on May 19, 1899. McCutchen marked the occasion by hitting for a ``doubleheader cycle' - home run and double in Game 1; triple, double and single in Game 2.
``I'm getting my pitches to hit - and I'm hitting 'em,' McCutchen said.
Ryan Mattheus (1-0) pitched the eighth inning to get the win in Game 2, and Drew Storen handled the ninth for his 20th save.
Tony Watson (0-1) took the loss in the nightcap for the Pirates.
Pittsburgh's Brad Lincoln, recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to pitch the second game, allowed two runs over six innings in his season debut.
The split gives Davey Johnson a 2-4 record since becoming Washington's manager.
The opener was tied at 2 when Jones and McCutchen took Sean Burnett (3-5) deep in the eighth. 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.
``It definitely feels good to get one off a lefty. I've been struggling off them,' Jones said. ``I saw the ball well today, just trying to make strides and stay close and stay in a big part of the field, stay up the middle and left-center off the lefty - and was able to stay on that one good.'
McDonald and Hernandez dominated much of the game, combining for 13 strikeouts and six 1-2-3 innings. McDonald allowed two runs and seven hits over 6 1-3 innings before giving way to Jose Veras (2-2), who pitched 1 2-3 innings to get the win.
``My preparation was a little different this time. My 'pen was a lot more focused, more game-like attitude to bear down on hitters and get that feel going,' said McDonald, who decided on the new approach after a talk with pitching coach Ray Searage. ``I feel like I carried my bullpen out to the game.'
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.
NOTES: 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, was a defensive replacement in both games.
The Associated Press News Service
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