Burnett allows back-to-back homers, Nats lose 5-3 in twinbill opener

Reliever Sean Burnett allowed successive homers by Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen in the eighth inning, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Washington Nationals 5-3 in the first game of their doubleheader at Nationals Park on Saturday.

Burnett (3-5) couldn’t preserve a 2-2 tie, allowing Jones to put the Pirates ahead with his ninth home run of the season, a blast to center field off a 2-2 sinker. The next batter, McCutchen, connected for his 12th homer off a 1-2 sinker for a two-run cushion.

After the Pirates grabbed another run in the top of the ninth on Matt Diaz’s pinch single, Jayson Werth collected an RBI single before the Nationals fell, 5-3.

Davey Johnson discusses the Nats’ 5-3 loss in Game 1 of the doubleheader against Pittsburgh

The loss was the fourth in five games for the Nationals since Davey Johnson took over as manager Monday in Anaheim. Washington slipped a game below .500 at 41-42.

Burnett had surrendered only one home run in 27 1/3 innings before Saturday, then yielded two in a span of seven pitches.

Right-hander Livan Hernandez gave up two runs in the first inning and then settled down, working seven innings in a no-decision. He alowed six hits, walked two and struck out four, and was taken off the hook when Rick Ankiel hit a pinch-hit homer off James McDonald in the bottom of the seventh to erase Pittsburgh’s 2-1 lead.

Jose Veras (2-2) got the victory with 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.. Ex-National Joel Hanrahan got the final three outs for his 24th save in as many opportunites.

Game 2 is scheduled for a 7:15 p.m. start and can be seen live on MASN2/MASN2 HD. You can watch Game 1 highlights now on “Nats Xtra” on those same channels.