Pittsburgh (8-23) at Washington (10-20)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Washington, DC
Temp: 77° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Sat May 6, 2006
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Washington Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson responded after manager Frank Robinson criticized his team’s slow start.

Johnson looks to stay hot at the plate when the Nationals continue their three-game series with the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday at RFK Stadium.

Robinson ripped into his team Thursday after it was pounded 11-3 by Florida for its 10th loss in 12 games, saying he was embarrassed by the Nationals’ performance. Washington (10-20) bounced back on Friday with a 6-0 win in the opener of this series.

“I felt that it was good,” said Jose Vidro, who had two hits, including an RBI double in the first inning. “I think it was needed…. It was very ugly. It was very embarrassing.”

Johnson hit a pair of two-run homers for the Nationals, who got their first shutout since Sept. 26 at Florida. Johnson, who is hitting .318 with eight homers and 18 RBIs, had his third career multihomer game and second of the season.

Johnson also homered twice April 20 at Philadelphia. He is 11-for-33 (.333) all-time against the Pirates, but his two homers Friday were his first against them.

The Nationals had been outscored 30-17 in the first inning this season before opening up a 3-0 lead after the opening frame on Friday.

“You get out front, three runs, that’s a big plus for you,” Robinson said. “It’s good for the psyche. It makes everyone feel a lot better, a lot more confident.”

Jack Wilson had two hits for the Pirates (8-23), who own the worst record in baseball. Pittsburgh lost its third straight and dropped to 2-16 on the road.

The Pirates, who were shut out for the second straight game, are off to their worst start since 1957, when they also started 8-23 en route to a 62-92 finish.

“We have not done a very good job over the course of the last several days of driving the ball,” manager Jim Tracy said.

Victor Santos (1-4, 5.06 ERA) will look to help the Pirates bounce back on Saturday. He allowed one unearned run and five hits in seven innings of Pittsburgh’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Monday, but did not receive a decision.

Santos had lost his previous three starts and has not won since a 5-3 victory at Cincinnati on April 9.

“Victor Santos pitched a terrific game,” manager Jim Tracy said Monday. “He pitched inside very effectively and it made his other pitches that much better.”

Santos is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three career appearances, including two starts, against the Nationals franchise. He will square off against Ramon Ortiz (0-3, 5.65 ERA), who allowed one run and seven hits in six innings but did not receive a decision in Washington’s 2-1 loss to the New York Mets on Monday.

The outing was the best of the season for Ortiz, who had allowed at least four earned runs in his three defeats and lowered his ERA more than a run from 6.75.

Ortiz is 0-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three career starts against the Pirates, all of which came last season when he was with Cincinnati.

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Starting Pitchers

V. Santos SF vs. R. Ortiz Tor
5-9 Record 11-16
5.70 ERA 5.57
81 K 104
42 BB 64
1.66 WHIP 1.54