WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals committed two errors, saw their starting pitcher sputter in the fifth inning and twice coughed up leads.
Fortunately for them, they were bailed out by a ricochet.
Ryan Zimmerman grounded a go-ahead single off the shin of Pittsburgh reliever D.J. Carrasco in the seventh inning and the Nationals, still buzzing after Stephen Strasburg's dazzling debut, beat the Pirates 7-5 on Wednesday night.
"Lucky, I guess," Zimmerman said. "The second baseman was right up the middle so he probably would have had a pretty good chance of fielding it. Those are the kind of breaks we haven't been getting lately. It's nice to get some every now and then."
A night after a sellout crowd of 40,315 watched Strasburg strike out 14 Pirates in winning his big league debut, only 18,876 fans came to Nationals Park. They witnessed the first major league appearance by Pittsburgh's Brad Lincoln, the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft.
"It was awesome," Lincoln said. "It's something I've looked forward to for a long time now, and for me to get this chance is just something that is real exciting for me."
Lincoln, promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis after Tuesday night's game, allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings. The right-hander struck out three and walked two and added two hits and an RBI.
"[Lincoln] threw the ball fine," Pirates manager John Russell said. "He tried to come in on some guys and it leaked back over the middle and hurt him. They made good contact on it and didn't miss. But overall, I thought he threw the ball very well. As he got into a rhythm, you could tell he got a little more confidence in his offspeed pitches."
But Lincoln was long gone by the time the Nationals squeezed out a run to snap a 5-all tie.
Cristian Guzman singled in the seventh off Carrasco (1-2) and moved up on Nyjer Morgan's sacrifice bunt. Zimmerman hit a grounder that struck Carrasco on his follow-through and caromed into short right field.
"That's baseball," Lincoln said. "Baseball is a game of inches, and we were just unlucky on the defensive side."
Zimmerman's well-placed grounder coupled with 4 1/3 scoreless innings of two-hit relief by the bullpen helped Washington recover after blowing 2-0 and 5-4 leads.
"It was another bullpen shutout," said reliever Tyler Walker, who chipped in 1 1/3 innings after starter John Lannan departed. "That's what we're looking for as a unit -- to put up zeros and give us a chance to win."
Adam Dunn homered for the second straight day as Washington handed the Pirates their seventh consecutive road loss. Pittsburgh has dropped four straight overall.
Dunn's two-run homer in the first gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead.
The Pirates went up 3-2 against Lannan in the third.
Andrew McCutchen drew a one-out walk, Garrett Jones singled and both runners moved up on a double steal. McCutchen scored on Andy LaRoche's groundout, and Lastings Milledge singled home Jones. Milledge went to second when center fielder Morgan threw wildly home and scored on Ronny Cedeno's single.
Neil Walker's single scored Jose Tabata for a 4-2 lead in the fourth. Tabata, recalled from Triple-A earlier in the day to make his major league debut, had reached on an infield single.
Roger Bernadina hit an RBI double in the Nationals fourth, then scored for a 4-all tie when Ian Desmond hit a sinking liner to right for a double. Desmond advanced to third on Wil Nieves' flyout and scored on Lannan's bad-hop infield single for a 5-4 edge.
Lannan exited after Lincoln's second hit of the night -- a grounder off Lannan's right leg that bounced into left field -- scored Milledge, who had doubled.
Lannan yielded five runs -- four earned -- and 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Nieves' sacrifice fly produced an eighth-inning insurance run.
The Pirates' four steals were a season high. ... Tabata hit an infield single in his first at-bat to lead off the game but left after seven innings because of a right hamstring cramp. Lincoln singled in his first at-bat in the second. ... Nationals manager Jim Riggleman rested catcher Ivan Rodriguez one day after he returned from the disabled list to catch Strasburg's debut. Riggleman said he would try not to use Rodriguez, who missed time with lower back tightness, in more than three straight games until after the All-Star break. ... Washington left-hander Scott Olsen has experienced a setback in his recovery from left shoulder tightness that landed him on the 15-day disabled list on May 22. Olsen will be shut down and then restart his rehabilitation program when his shoulder feels better.