"Pudge [Rodriguez] had a huge night with the opposite-field home run," said bench coach John McLaren, who was managing the club while Jim Riggleman served the final game of a two-game suspension. "[Ian] Desmond had three hits. It was a good night. When you throw strikes and have good tempo and the fielders are behind you."
Lannan allowed one run on five hits in seven innings. He recorded a season-high seven strikeouts to up his record to 7-6 on the season.
"Lannan was outstanding," McLaren stated. "He just threw strikes and kept them off-balance with good location."
Lannan was pleased with his outing.
"Pudge and I did a great job just mixing it up on both sides of the plate," Lannan explained. "I threw some [four-seam fastballs] inside to righties and some [two-seam fastballs] into lefties. I had my changeup working again, and that's been the pitch I've gone to if I was getting behind hitters. [It] kept them off-balance a little bit. You get a little more comfortable out there when your team puts up that many runs."
Pirates lefty Paul Maholm was tagged with loss, falling to 7-14 on the campaign. He surrendered seven runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings of work.
"Maholm wasn't commanding the ball like he wanted to," Pirates manager John Russell offered. "It's something that has continued to get him. He wants to get the ball down and wasn't able to get it where he wants it. He was falling behind. That's just not the way he pitches. When he pitches well, he's around the zone and his sinker is working well."
The Nationals broke through against Maholm in the fourth, after being held hitless through the first three innings. Ryan Zimmerman singled, Michael Morse drew a walk and Roger Bernadina put down a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. Rodriguez stroked a two-run single off the scoreboard in right. Rodriguez advanced to second on an error by Bucs catcher Chris Snyder. Danny Espinosa singled to right, plating Bernadina. Justin Maxwell hit a long sacrifice fly, knocking in Rodriguez. Nyjer Morgan lofted an RBI single to left to cap the five-run frame, in which the Nats sent 10 men to the plate.
"The fourth inning I made a bad pitch to Pudge that he hit the opposite way," Maholm lamented. "There are two broken bats and an excuse-me swing, a bunt. Not good to allow it to get out of hand. It's about as frustrating as it can get right now. But I'm going to have to figure it out. It's disappointing to me, and it's disappointing to a lot of people. But I'll come in tomorrow and try and figure it out."
Rodriguez, who entered the game batting .212 since the All-Star break, gave the Nats a 7-0 lead with a two-run homer -- his third of the year -- to knock out Maholm in the fifth.
"It was good," said Rodriguez, who finished with four RBIs. "I always play the game hard, it doesn't matter what happened the night before. Last night was tough, and as a player you've got to come positive and mentally strong and play the game hard, that's what I've been doing all of my career. It was a great game, I just made a couple of adjustments with [batting coach] Rick Eckstein in the cage, and it worked out really well."
The Pirates nicked Lannan for a run in the bottom of the fifth on an Andrew McCutchen solo shot.
The Nats came right back against Pirates reliever Daniel McCutchen in the top of the sixth inning. Lannan walked and Morgan singled. Lannan scored on an RBI single by Desmond giving Washington an 8-1 lead.
Washington added an insurance run on a Morse single against Bucs reliever Chan Ho Park in the eighth.
Pittsburgh got a run off Nats reliever Doug Slaten in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double by Ronny Cedeno.
"It was a good game," McLaren said. "We're looking tomorrow to win the series, and finish this season out strong. We've come too far, and we've got to keep pushing."
George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.