Outfielder Preston Wilson was back in the Washington Nationals' lineup Thursday night for a key game against the Houston Astros, a day after he was lifted for pinch hitter Jose Guillen in the ninth inning of a one-run loss.

Wilson, who has struggled since a July 13 trade brought him to Washington from Colorado, left Minute Maid Park swiftly after the loss and did not speak to reporters. Before Thursday's game, he was diplomatic.

"No one wants to be pinch-hit for," he said. "The decision had to be made, and I don't have any say."

Manager Frank Robinson called the move a "no-brainer," and Wilson's statistics support that contention. He has struck out 33 times in 84 at-bats, is hitting .226 and has just 11 RBI with the Nationals after hitting .258 with 15 homers and 47 RBI in 267 at-bats with Colorado. Wilson struck out three times in Thursday's 6-3 loss, raising his total to 110 for the year, and hit a two-run homer in the seventh.

Robinson has hinted that rookie Brandon Watson could play in Wilson's place if things don't turn around, but he sat Watson, a left-handed hitter, against Astros lefty Andy Pettitte in the series finale.

Wilson spent nearly 45 minutes watching tape prior to batting practice Thursday. Asked if he figured anything else out, he said, "I guess we'll see."

Robinson said he would be conscious of Wilson's history at Colorado's Coors Field, where the Nationals begin a three-game series Friday. Over his career, Wilson has hit a home run every 17.2 at-bats at Coors, as opposed to once every 20.7 elsewhere.

Johnson Practices Driving the Ball

First baseman Nick Johnson went 0 for 4 and is now 2 for his last 19. He is working on driving the ball to the left-center field gap, where he hits most of his doubles. He has spent time taking soft tosses, "Just trying to stay back," he said. He still occasionally feels the bruised heel that kept him on the disabled list in July, but mostly when he stops running suddenly. "Mostly, it's fine," he said. "But it's still there."