Nationals Top Pirates To End Slide At 5

Sunday, July 1st 2007, 3:39 pm
By: News On 6

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Jesus Flores' first major league home run, a two-run drive in the seventh inning, gave slumping Washington a three-run lead and the Nationals ended a five-game losing streak by holding on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 Sunday.

Mike Bacsik (2-5) won for the first time since May 24, shutting out the Pirates on three hits until being pulled during a two-run Pittsburgh seventh aided by his own throwing error. Bacsik had lost his last five decisions _ he allowed three homers in his previous start _ and the Nationals had lost his last six starts.

Despite winning four of their previous five, the Pirates _ 35-46 halfway through their season _ looked lifeless against a struggling pitcher until Adam LaRoche singled and Jose Castillo doubled to start the seventh. Ronny Paulino reached when Bacsik's hurried throw on a slow roller to the right of the mound eluded first baseman Dmitri Young.

Bacsik was pulled for Luis Ayala, who gave up sacrifice flies to Jack Wilson and pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit but managed to keep Washington in the lead despite inheriting a bases-loaded, none-out situation.

Jon Rauch, who took the loss as the Pirates rallied from two runs down to win 3-2 Friday, struck out Xavier Nady and Jason Bay during a scoreless eighth. Chad Cordero pitched the ninth for his 14th save in 20 opportunities. He has 10 saves in his last 11 attempts.

It was another off day for the slumping Bay, an All-Star starter a year ago who was hitting .314 a month ago Sunday but is now down to .262 amid a monthlong slump. He was given the night off Saturday _ the first game he's missed this season and only the fourth in three seasons _ but went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Sunday. He also drew some boos when he couldn't reach a fly ball single by Flores in the third that dropped a stride to his right.

The Flores hit that did the most damage came in the seventh. After Robert Fick singled with two outs to keep the inning going, Flores _ in only his 63rd career at-bat _ lofted a long fly to left that appeared to skip off the hands of a fan leaning over the wall and into the seats. Flores is a rookie catcher who played Sunday only because starter Brian Schneider got the day off.

Washington, which has scored only 25 runs in its last 11 games, also scored in the fourth against Paul Maholm (4-11) on consecutive singles by Dmitri Young, Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez, and Fick's run-scoring groundout.

Maholm lasted seven innings for the fourth consecutive start, giving up nine hits and three runs.

Notes: The Nationals are 33-48 at the halfway mark, the same record as they had last season. ... The Pirates have made an eight-game improvement from a year ago, when they were 27-54 halfway through the season. ... The Pirates won the season series 4-2, the first time they've done so against the former Montreal Expos franchise since 2000. ... The Nationals had lost six of seven and 11 of 14. ... LaRoche had three of the Pirates' six hits, giving him 10 in his last five games. ... Nady, batting third for the first time this season, went 1-for-4 with a double.