PITTSBURGH -- One bad inning proved to be John Lannan's undoing, as the Nationals fell to the Pirates, 4-2, on Monday night at PNC Park.
The Pirates' four-run uprising in the fourth provided a sour taste to Lannan's 100th career start. He pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on five hits, dropping to 2-2 on the season.
Jose Tabata drew a one-out walk in the fourth and advanced to third on a single to right field by Neil Walker. Tabata scored on a throwing error by right fielder Jayson Werth, pushing Walker to third base. Then came the rain.
After a 21-minute delay, the Bucs continued their offensive assault on Lannan. Steve Pearce coaxed a walk and newly acquired Brandon Wood delivered a two-run double. Chris Snyder rapped an RBI single, driving in Wood and giving Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead.
"A walk before the rain delay was part of the problem," said Washington manager Jim Riggleman. "Then they advanced a runner on a ground ball and we were still in decent shape, Wood got a big hit. I thought John's pitch to Wood was a pretty good pitch. I saw a replay of it and it looked like it was in a decent spot, but he's got good power and drove it into right-center on us."
"The rain when they called it -- it wasn't that big of a factor," Lannan said. "I threw a first-pitch strike to Pearce, and after that I thought I was going to get him. I was just up in the zone, and it hurt."
Wood had flown out in his first trip to the plate, but he got good wood on the ball his second time up.
"I just got a little more barrel on that second one," Wood said. "It's nice to get the first hit and the first couple of RBIs out of the way and just go play some baseball from here."
"It's tough, but you know you have to deal with it," Lannan said. "[Pirates starter Paul] Maholm had the same conditions, and coming back out there with two outs in the fourth -- I felt good warming up, but I wasn't able to make pitches, and I was up in the zone and that's what was the game right there."
Maholm overcame a shaky start to hurl seven stellar innings. He surrendered two runs on four hits, while recording a season-best eight strikeouts and retiring the final 13 batters he faced for his first win of the season.
"Paul handled it very, very well. It wasn't that long of a delay," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "There was no pause, no anything. He just kept rolling."
"Maholm shut us down," Riggleman said. "We hit a couple balls decent that they made some plays on. We really couldn't elevate too many balls on him and get anything in the air to carry out in the gap or go over the fence."
The Nationals got off to a quick start in the opening frame. With one out, Ian Desmond singled and Werth doubled off the right-field wall. Adam LaRoche stroked a two-run single, but that was all Washington mustered.
"That's the way it goes, that's baseball," LaRoche said. "You're not going to be hot every night, and we sure weren't tonight."
"I missed two pitches really -- the one to Werth and the one to LaRoche," Maholm said. "I don't know what it is with the first inning. I just had to make sure they didn't get anymore."
The Pirates' bullpen, which has been very effective of late, shut things down after Maholm was lifted for a pinch-hitter.
Right-hander Evan Meek pitched a scoreless eighth inning and closer Joel Hanrahan got out of ninth-inning difficulties with runners on first and third to pick up his sixth save of the season.
Washington finished the road swing with a 2-4 record.
"We had hard losses," Lannan said. "We played well, we'll keep our head up and go home and face the Mets and Giants. We are not down on ourselves, we've been playing pretty good ball and it's still early in the season. It's still April, and we've got a long season ahead. I think we're going to be OK."
George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.