PITTSBURGH -- The Nationals' normally reliable starting pitching was roughed up by the Pirates, who cruised to a 7-2 victory in front of 18,262 fans at PNC Park after a one-hour, 11-minute rain delay on Saturday night.
The Pirates jumped on Nationals starter Livan Hernandez, who was making his 450th consecutive start since debuting in his only career relief appearance with the Marlins in 1996.
Hernandez (2-2) was tagged for seven runs (four earned) on nine hits and four walks in six innings of work.
"I didn't feel bad," said Hernandez, who is 1-5 in his career at PNC Park. "I felt good and I made some pitches, and they hit it one-handed and they hit the hole. It is difficult when everything you throw ... the guy hits it in the hole. I tried to get people out, and it wasn't happening in the first inning. It was a tough day."
Washington manager Jim Riggleman felt Hernandez deserved a better fate.
"The numbers will indicate that he had a rough inning, a rough game, whatever, but he threw the ball much better than what the numbers will say," Riggleman said. "It just seemed like every ball that was hit was out of reach. There was obviously a couple well-hit balls, but there were a couple balls that were just inches away from us being able to make the play, and it turns into a heck of a rally."
Hernandez had difficulty warming up after the rain delay.
"It's difficult when you come to the park and you are waiting another hour or two hours," Hernandez said. "They got me quick, because they came in and said, 'Half an hour.' I didn't know it was going to be like that. They've got to do a better job and let us know. For the starting pitcher to come from the bullpen straight to the mound is not enough for me. We had to warm up fast, and you've got to let us know earlier -- it's not enough time to warm up."
Pirates starter Jeff Karstens (2-0) tossed six-plus innings and allowed two runs on six hits to notch the win.
The Nationals committed three errors, which contributed greatly to the Pirates' cause.
"We've got to play better defense," Riggleman said. "We've just got to play better. Just defense in general -- we were a poor defensive ballclub last year and we just cannot be a poor defensive ballclub. We're too athletic to do that and we've just got to do a better job."
Riggleman gave a tip of the cap to Karstens.
"He pitched a good ballgame," said Riggleman. "He got out of trouble, and that was pretty much the story -- we just didn't string enough hits together."
Karstens made the most of the early lead he was handed.
"Really, my mindset was to be aggressive, but not be stupid and try and be as efficient as possible," said Karstens.
In the top of the first, Pittsburgh sent nine men to the plate, with Lyle Overbay delivering an RBI single, Garrett Jones an RBI double and Ryan Doumit an RBI single. Doumit advanced to second on a caught-stealing error by shortstop Ian Desmond. Pedro Alvarez knocked in Jones with a groundout, and Ronny Cedeno stroked an RBI single to score Doumit. When the smoke had cleared, the Pirates had a 5-0 lead.
Three of the Pirates' runs in the first inning were earned and two were unearned.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was elated with the first-inning production.
"It was good for us to do [that] after the series we had in Florida," Hurdle said. "I think it definitely brings some calmness to everybody. It gets everybody invigorated. It gives everybody a little more adrenaline to start the game off. It was nice to do it at home."
Washington cut the lead to 5-1 in the top of the second inning. Adam LaRoche led off with a double and came around to score on an RBI single by Mike Morse.
The Pirates upped their lead to 6-1 in the second inning, when Andrew McCutchen drew a walk, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Wilson Ramos. McCutchen scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose Tabata.
Jayson Werth smacked Karstens' first pitch in the fourth into the left-field stands for his third homer of the season, cutting the Pirates' lead to 6-2.
"We're close," Werth said. "We're getting close and I feel like it's all going to line up pretty soon, and everybody is going to get locked in and we're going to take off. For as little as we hit, we're not in a bad spot. We start hitting, we'll be all right."
Pittsburgh tacked on an insurance run in the sixth. McCutchen and Tabata drew back-to-back walks, and Overbay stroked an RBI single.
George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.