Pirates 5, Nationals 4, 11 innings

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WASHINGTON (AP)—As usual, the Pittsburgh Pirates fell behind. Thanks to some stellar bullpen work, one big swing by Jason Bay, and help from the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh pulled off a rare comeback victory.

Bay’s homer with two outs in the 11th inning lifted the Pirates over the Nationals 5-4 on Saturday night, ending a three-game losing streak.

“It was big,” said Bay, who entered the day hitting .250, “not just for me, but the team.”

Pittsburgh fell behind 2-0 and 4-1, but managed to tie the game in the fourth, the way it stayed until Bay drove a high fastball from Felix Rodriguez (0-1) to left for his sixth homer of the season.

“One bad pitch,” Rodriguez said. “Right in the middle of the plate.”

Five Pirates relievers combined for five shutout innings. The last, Mike Gonzalez (1-2), went two innings. He allowed two singles in the 11th before striking out pinch-hitter Marlon Byrd to end it.

It was only the Pirates’ third win in 23 games this season in which their opponents scored first.

“Hopefully, this is something that springboards you in the right direction,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said.

Washington has lost 11 of its last 14 games, and there were plenty of indications these were the two teams that entered the day with the most losses in the National League.

Take, for example, Washington’s third run: It came courtesy of a wild pitch and two errors, all on one play. Then there was the Nationals’ error that paved the way for Pittsburgh’s third run. And a balk that moved along the Pirates runner who eventually scored in the fourth, tying the game at 4.

The Nationals had four hits in the first two innings, then mustered a total of three singles over the next eight.

“We let it get away,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.

Pittsburgh loaded the bases in the eighth with three consecutive singles, but reliever Jon Rauch got out of the jam with two popups. A hit batsman and two walks loaded the bases for the Pirates in the fifth, but manager Jim Tracy let his starter, Victor Santos bat, and he struck out.

There also was an odd sequence in the seventh, when the Nationals had a runner on second. Byrd, who bats right-handed, emerged from the dugout, apparently to pinch-hit for the left-handed Ryan Church against lefty Damaso Marte.

Tracy employed a triple-switch, replacing one of his outfielders, shifting another from center to right, and sending in right-handed pitcher Salomon Torres. But Byrd went back to the dugout, and Church entered the batter’s box. Tracy spoke briefly to plate umpire Jim Joyce, and Church flied out to center.

Alfonso Soriano’s ninth homer put Washington up 2-0 in the first inning; the Pirates have been outscored 36-10 in that inning this season.

Pittsburgh cut the deficit when Ryan Doumit’s RBI double in the second ended the club’s scoreless streak at 22 innings. Doumit started at first base, his first appearance at the position at any level.

A truly unusual play came in the bottom of the second. With Washington starter Ramon Ortiz at the plate, and runners on the corners, he swung and missed for strike three. But the ball got past catcher Ronny Paulino, sending Royce Clayton running to second. Paulino collected the ball and fired toward second, but the throw sailed into center field. Brian Schneider took off from third, and outfielder Nate McLouth’s throw flew past Paulino for another error, allowing Clayton to take third. He then scored on Jose Vidro’s sacrifice fly, making it 4-1.

The Nationals repaid the favor in the third, when rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman let the ball go through his legs for an error on Freddy Sanchez’s grounder with two men on. McLouth scored from third, and Soriano threw out Sanchez at second for his NL-high fifth outfield assist. Bay’s RBI groundout made it 4-3.

Pittsburgh tied it in the fourth. Jose Castillo singled, took second on Ortiz’s balk, was sacrificed to third and scored on a double by McLouth, who was in an 0-for-26 drought before his third-inning single.

Santos gave up four runs—three earned—and five hits with two walks in six innings, retiring 11 consecutive batters at one point. Ortiz allowed four runs and six hits with five walks (two intentional) in his five innings.

“I think it’s obvious,” Robinson said, “I’m disappointed that he didn’t pitch better.”

Notes

Pirates SS Jack Wilson (right hamstring) left in the third inning, Nationals C Schneider (left hamstring) left in the seventh. Both were listed as day to day.

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