PITTSBURGH - It took a rare team meeting for the Nationals to get what lately has been a rare victory when Stephen Strasburg starts.
Strasburg struck out eight in seven innings Saturday, and the Nationals won one of his outings for the first time since opening day by beating the Pirates 5-4.
"I was absolutely happy about getting through the seventh inning," said Strasburg, who did not earn the victory. "The biggest thing is to give your team a chance to win the ballgame. Not every game are you going to be lights-out and hitting every spot."
Strasburg allowed four runs and five hits - all of Pittsburgh's offense coming on two-run homers by Starling Marte and Clint Barmes.
Strasburg is 1-4 with a 3.45 ERA in seven starts this season.
"I thought (Strasburg) threw really well," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He made one good pitch after another. He only made two bad pitches all day, a couple over the heart of the plate that they hit out of the park. But he held us in the game and did a good job."
Tyler Moore hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth inning off Tony Watson (1-1) to score Ryan Zimmerman, who was on third after an unlikely double steal.
Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche had combined for 36 steals in 2,219 games when they took off and got good enough jumps that Pirates catcher Russell Martin didn't even bother throwing.
"We know who has what times (to the plate) … what guys give a guy like me an actual chance to steal a base," said Zimmerman, whose steal of third was the first of his career.
"When you're looking at a pitcher that takes 1.8-2.0 seconds to get the ball to the plate, I should be able to steal off him."
Before the game, Johnson called a team meeting.
His primary message: Relax. In an effort to loosen up the team, 70-year-old Johnson even took batting practice - getting about 40 hacks - for what he said was the first time in 25 years.