As much as John Lannan has struggled tonight, and as many opportunities as the Pirates have had to put some distance between themselves and the Nationals, Washington has a 2-1 lead through five innings. Those kinds of opportunities are going to come against the teams the Nationals will be playing in the next two weeks, and these are the games where they have to take advantage to pad their record.
Take the fourth inning, for example: Lannan walked Brandon Wood on four pitches, and then gave up a single to Chris Snyder. But Wood tried to go from first to third, and even though Roger Bernadina's throw to first was a little off-line, it beat Wood to the base and he was tagged out. On the next at-bat, Ronny Cedeno doubled to center without a runner in scoring position, and the game stayed tied. Then, with Snyder at third and two out, pitcher Paul Maholm failed to get a bunt down on a suicide squeeze, and Snyder got caught in a rundown.
Lannan's line for the inning looked like this: 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 0 ER. He's given up seven hits in five innings, throwing only 45 of 84 pitches for strikes, and though he's been helped by some solid defensive plays from the Nationals, he's also gotten some gifts from the Pirates. And Jerry Hairston Jr. just hit a homer to put the Nationals up by a run.
If the Nationals want to get on a hot stretch, they've got to take advantage of games like these.