- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2006

It was a situation that reliever Felix Rodriguez has been in countless times during his 10-year career.

Two outs, nobody on, in a tied, extra-inning game. Rodriguez made a mistake with one pitch — a high fastball — to a fastball hitter and the Nationals continued their losing ways.

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jason Bay belted an 11th-inning home run and powered the Pirates to a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Nationals last night at RFK Stadium.

Rodriguez wanted the pitch to be away, but instead it stayed in the middle of the plate and Bay connected for his sixth homer of the season and the first in his last 11 games.

“You don’t want to walk this guy and you don’t want to make the mistake I made today,” said Rodriguez, who leads the major leagues with 18 appearances. “The pitch was supposed to be away and it stayed right in the middle of the plate.”

Nationals starter Ramon Ortiz blew an early three-run lead and allowed the Pirates to tie the game in the fourth inning. As for the Nationals offense, the club scored four runs in the first two innings and then managed just five hits over the next scoreless nine innings.

The loss dropped the Nationals (10-21) to 2-10 at RFK, to 1-8 in one-run games, and to 1-3 in extra-inning games this season.

The club received a scare in the seventh inning when catcher Brian Schneider left the game with left-hamstring tightness. Backup Matthew LeCroy replaced Schneider and then took a foul ball off his right arm in the 10th and was briefly looked at by the club’s training staff. If LeCroy would have been unable to continue, the Nationals would have been in trouble without a emergency catcher now that infielder Brendan Harris has been optioned back to Class AAA New Orleans.

“It’s been tight the last couple of day games and after running around the bases that first time after my first at-bat, it really tightened up and I wasn’t comfortable blocking balls and running and going behind bases,” Schneider said. “It just didn’t loosen up and stayed real tight on me.”

Nationals manager Frank Robinson intended to rest Schneider for today’s game with Pirates left-hander Zach Duke scheduled to start. Schneider said after last night’s game that he will be available today if Robinson needs him.

The Nationals took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Alfonso Soriano’s team-leading ninth home run. Coming into the game, the Pirates had been outscored 34-10 in the first inning and were 2-20 when the opposition scores first.

Soriano, a converted second baseman, threw out Freddy Sanchez at second base in the third inning. After initially refusing to play in the outfield for the Nationals during spring training, Soriano leads the majors with five outfield assists.

The second inning entertained the crowd of 29,953 with one of the wilder plays this season. With Schneider at third and Royce Clayton on first after back-to-back singles, Ortiz was up. The veteran pitcher failed to lay down a bunt and sacrifice Clayton to second, but Ortiz struck out on a wild pitch from Pirates starter Victor Santos.

Once the ball got past Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino, Clayton took off to second. Paulino’s throw to second sailed into center field and allowed Schneider to score from third. And the Pirates weren’t done throwing the ball all over the place. Pirates rookie center fielder Nate McLouth tried to gun down Schneider at the plate. but his throw ended up in the backstop, allowing Clayton to take third. The rebuilding Pirates (9-23) committed two errors on the same play. Clayton would later score on a Jose Vidro sacrifice fly to right that gave the Nationals a 4-1 lead.

Ortiz, who is coming off his best start of the season Monday against the New York Mets when he went six innings and allowed only one run on seven hits, let the last-place Pirates back into the game.

“I’m not happy about my game today because I felt good but threw a lot of first-pitch balls,” Ortiz said.

Pittsburgh picked up two runs in the third inning and tied the game 4-4 in the fourth inning. The third inning wasn’t all Ortiz’s fault. Rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made an error that enabled the Pirates to score an unearned run.

Pirates leadoff batter McLouth was on third and broke for the plate on Sanchez’s grounder. Zimmerman was unable to come up with the ball, allowing McLouth to score and narrow the deficit to 4-2. The Pirates made it 4-3 when Bay grounded out to first, enabling Jack Wilson to score.

Pittsburgh’s first run of the game in the second inning snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak. Ortiz walked Bay, who scored on a Ryan Doumit double to gap in left-center field, and the Pirates trailed 2-1.

Ortiz, who is winless in his last 10 starts dating to last season, allowed four runs on six hits in five innings with 108 pitches. Ortiz walked five, hit a batter, balked and threw a wild pitch.

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