The return of Rivera was a surprise because he had given up 10 runs in 7 1/3 innings. His worst game came on Sunday afternoon when he pitched an inning and gave up four runs against the Marlins.
Washington decided to bring him back because it feels pitching coach Randy St. Claire can straighten him out. St. Claire made it clear that Rivera cannot pitch behind in the count and must be aggressive on the mound.
"Every year he has done the same thing. He will have three or four bad games in a row and then have 3 1/2 months of solid outings," St. Claire said. "But he had bad games at the beginning of the year, and it got magnified with the team's bad start to the season."
Manager Manny Acta said Rivera deserves the second chance because of the numbers he has put up during his career with Washington. Entering this season, he had a 3.72 ERA in 215 relief appearances.
"Since we brought some bullpen guys, we will give him some innings where the game isn't on the line, and then we'll see if he can get his confidence back," Acta said. "Then we'll have the good old Saul, who has a solid ERA here."
WSH: LHP John Lannan (0-2, 6.46 ERA)
Lannan had his best outing of the season last Friday. In his previous two outings, Lannan had allowed 10 runs in nine innings. He wasn't aggressive and was often behind in the count, but this time, Lannan lasted 6 1/3 innings and gave up just one run on three hits against the Marlins. The southpaw trusted his fastball, and he was able to get it on the inside part of the plate a lot more often. Lannan cruised through the first three innings, but he had problems in the fourth inning after allowing a solo homer to Marlins catcher John Baker. He loaded the bags following Baker's blast, but he got out of the jam without allowing another run.
After struggling with his control while winning his first two starts of the season, Jurrjens produced one of the strongest starts of his young career and suffered his first loss on Friday night at PNC Park. The 23-year-old right-hander limited the Pirates to one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings. The two walks he issued were drawn by the final two batters he faced at the end of his career-high 120-pitch effort. Jurrjens allowed three earned runs while issuing five walks in an April 12 start against the Nationals. Tidbits
Ryan Zimmerman is on an 11-game hitting streak. He has gone 15-for-50 (.300) with two home runs and 10 RBIs during that streak. ... The Nationals have stolen seven bases in the past seven games. ... Washington is hitting .270 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs. Tickets
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Friday: Nationals (Scott Olsen, 0-2, 9.00) at Mets (Johan Santana, 2-1, 0.46), 7:10 p.m. ET
Saturday: Nationals (Daniel Cabrera, 0-1, 4.50) at Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 1-0, 8.10), 1:10 p.m. ET
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.