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(notes) 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(notes) (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(notes) 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.
Charlie Morton(notes) (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.