Loaiza, Nats top Martinez, Mets

Cordero causes tremors but collects his 30th save in 3-2 win

Vidro returns

Baseball

July 06, 2005|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - It was a game that felt big.

Maybe it was because the first-place Washington Nationals, backed by another big home crowd, were going against National League strikeout leader Pedro Martinez for the first time this year.

Or maybe it was because it was one of those tightly played, pitching-dominated games where hits are elusive, walks are few and defensive gems abound.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but this felt like playoff baseball. Which could be a good omen for the Nationals, who got eight stellar innings from starter Esteban Loaiza (5-5) and a major league-leading 30th save from Chad Cordero in a 3-2 win over the New York Mets last night before 35,087.

"This is what baseball is all about," said Nationals second baseman Jose Vidro, who returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering an ankle injury sliding into home May 4.

"It was a great game. You had two guys throwing everything out there," Vidro said of Loaiza and Martinez, against whom opposing batters entered the game batting a league low of .177.

Martinez (9-3), who gave up three runs in seven innings, was the loser despite looking sharp. "You'd surely like to capitalize on a quality start," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "I can throw superlatives at him all day long."

The Nats took a 1-0 lead in the second after Vinny Castilla led off with double over Cliff Floyd's head in left. Castilla moved to third on a groundout and scored on Brian Schneider's single.

Washington made it 3-0 in the seventh. Jamey Carroll singled to right and was sacrificed to second by Loaiza. One out later, Vidro lined an RBI double to right. Jose Guillen followed with his third hit, an RBI single.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson was delighted at the return of Vidro, who had been at Triple-A New Orleans, playing his way back into shape. The Nationals are still without first baseman Nick Johnson, shortstop Cristian Guzman and outfielder Ryan Church, among others.

"I'm sore Jose feels a little bit better than I do, and I feel great," Robinson said of the infielder's return. "That's what he's capable of doing, and that's why it's so nice to have him back. At any time, he'll get the big hit for you."

Loaiza got a standing ovation when he left with a 3-0 lead with no outs in the ninth after surrendering his sixth hit of the game, a leadoff single to Floyd.

Robinson said he resisted the temptation to go to the bullpen to start the ninth because he wanted to allow Loaiza to finish the game. But once a runner reached base, Robinson summoned Cordero, who was NL Pitcher of the Month for June.

As he sometimes does, Cordero made it interesting.

He struck out Mike Piazza before surrendering a single to Marlon Anderson to put runners on first and third. David Wright's RBI single made it 3-1, and the runners advanced to second and third on Guillen's overthrow to the infield.

Reyes' groundout made it 3-2.

But with the tying run on third and two outs, Cordero got pinch hitter Brian Daubach to pop up.

Vidro said it was a typical one-run soap opera for his club, which specializes in winning close games.

"We don't have that 40-home-run guy or 150-RBI guy," Vidro said. "But clutch hits - we get them."

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