PITTSBURGH -- They were words passed from one once-highly-touted prospect to one who recently fell into such a category. The speaker was Clint Hurdle. The recipient, Brandon Wood.
"I told him, 'Don't put a lot of weight into making a first impression,'" said Hurdle, who, like Wood, was a first-round Draft pick who had a hard time living up to external expectations. "'Don't go out of your way to make a first impression.'"
Whether he went out of his way or not, Wood made a pretty good impression on Monday night. His fourth-inning double plated the go-ahead run for the Pirates, who rode a deep outing from starter Paul Maholm to complete a series victory over the Nationals with a 4-2 win at PNC Park.
It was just one hit, just two RBIs. But for a 26-year-old who spent years unable to find his footing with the Angels, it was, at the least, an encouraging start.
"It's nice to get the first hit and the first couple RBIs out of the way and just go play some baseball from here," said Wood, who was claimed off waivers from Los Angeles on Friday. "There are some jitters before just being with a new team. The first game is almost like Opening Day a little bit. I put that behind me and just relaxed and played."
So much more time will be needed before the Pirates can evaluate whether they got a steal off the waiver wire, but Wood provided a glimmer of hope in his Pittsburgh debut. He arrived on Saturday and sat on the bench for two games before Hurdle plugged him in as the team's starting third baseman.
In his first at-bat against Nationals starter John Lannan, Wood drove a ball into the gap that was tracked down by right fielder Jayson Werth. Wood lined another into nearly the same spot his second time up, and that one rolled to the wall.
"I just got a little more barrel," Wood said, "on that second one."
Neil Walker and Steve Pearce, who both reached with two outs in the fourth, scored to put the Pirates ahead, 3-2.
"I thought John's pitch to Wood was a pretty good pitch," said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. "I saw a replay of it and it looked like it was in a decent spot. But he's got good power and drove it into right-center on us."
Wood finished the game 1-for-4, reaching once on a fielding error.
"We're just trying to find a way to take away the adrenaline of, 'I've got to do this, I've got to do that,'" Hurdle said. "He's got some time to write his own story here and get back on track with what he's capable of doing."
The double came shortly after a 21-minute rain delay. The Pirates scored their first run -- Jose Tabata walked and eventually came home on an error -- off Lannan right before the downpour began. That was after Lannan faced the minimum through three innings.
Perhaps Lannan's effectiveness got lost during the delay, but regardless of the explanation, the Pirates jumped on him as soon as play resumed. Pearce drew a walk, and after Wood's hit, Chris Snyder delivered an RBI single to pad the lead.
Lannan did not use the weather delay as an excuse for the trouble with his command.
"I felt good warming up, but I wasn't able to make pitches and I was up in the zone," Lannan said. "That's what was the game right there."
On the other side, Maholm was entirely unfazed by the delay. He used the time in the clubhouse to change into dry clothes and catch some of the Penguins' playoff hockey game -- they lost, 4-2, and Game 7 will be in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Maholm threw about a dozen pitches, too, before returning to the dugout when play resumed.
And when he took the mound, Maholm (1-3) cruised.
Actually, the left-hander endured just about no trouble after the first. Three consecutive Nationals hits plated two in the first inning before Maholm stopped the bleeding with two strikeouts. From the second inning on, he allowed just one more hit and two walks in a seven-inning start.
"For him to stop that inning there, then he got on a nice run," Hurdle said. "He pitched inside a lot more effectively. He threw everything at them."
Maholm struck out eight -- a season-best for any of the club's pitchers -- and retired the final 13 hitters he faced. It was a much-needed rebound after Maholm lasted only 3 2/3 innings in his start against the Marlins last week.
"I was mixing speeds, mixing pitches and just letting the defense do some work," said Maholm, who picked up his first win of the year. "Pretty much completely the opposite of what I did in my last start."
If there was anything to criticize, it was only that the lefty continues to have trouble getting through the first two innings cleanly. Six of the 13 earned runs he has allowed this season have come in one of the opening two frames.
"I don't know what it is with the first inning," Maholm said. "We'll tweak it and try and see what I can do to come in and make sure the offense has a chance to put us on the board first."
The Pirates picked up their first home series victory of the season. The club already won three of its four series away from PNC Park.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.