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Vidro answers the call

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Jose Vidro waited all season for a moment like this.

Nearly two months after his last RBI, Vidro singled home two runs in the ninth inning as the Nationals staged their latest rally to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-6 yesterday before 21,322 at RFK Stadium.

The veteran second baseman, who this season has struggled with a succession of knee and ankle injuries, delivered a bases-loaded line drive to right field on a 1-0 fastball from Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen.

Halfway up the first-base line, Vidro pumped his right arm as he watched his hit fly past first baseman Albert Pujols.

"There's always a [traffic] light that's red when I go out of my apartment, and this morning it was green, so [I thought] maybe this was going to be a good day or me," Vidro said. "It turned out to be so. I've missed a lot of chances to come through for the ballclub. This has definitely been the biggest hit of the year for me."

Lately, Vidro -- mired in a 5-for-32 slump -- has been relegated to the bench. With the Nationals (61-78) mired in last place, some of the club's established veterans are seeing decreased playing time.

In Vidro's case, the club wants to get a long look at young second baseman Bernie Castro to see whether he can play at this level. But Vidro capitalized on his start yesterday, going 2-for-5 with three RBI and a run scored.

"It's good to see anybody come through, but especially him -- he's been struggling," manager Frank Robinson said. "It was good to see him get the big hit."

Vidro's heroics led the Nationals to their fifth comeback win on this nine-game homestand. Overall, Washington went 6-3 before beginning a two-city, seven-game road trip tonight in Colorado.

Vidro's clutch base hit picked up closer Chad Cordero, who blew his first save since the All-Star break. With the Nationals leading 5-4, Preston Wilson treated Cordero and his former team rudely when he blasted a slider into the upper deck in left field for a two-run homer in the ninth inning to give the National League Central-leading Cardinals (74-64) a 6-5 lead.

It was Wilson's 14th homer of the season. Once he knew it was gone, Wilson emphatically threw his bat to the ground as if to say, "Take that Nationals." Washington declined to re-sign Wilson after last season.

"I threw him four fastballs in a row, and I was just trying to change it up. ... I wanted to throw it lower," said Cordero (7-4). "I just left it up, and he put a good swing on it and hit it over the fence."

Cordero had converted 11 straight save opportunities. This was his first blown save since July 9 against San Diego at RFK.

Nationals starter Mike O'Connor, who made his major league debut against the Cardinals on April 27 in St. Louis, pitched five shutout innings. The Nationals recalled the rookie left-hander Tuesday from Class AAA New Orleans, where he had been rehabbing a strained left elbow.

The George Washington University product allowed the Cardinals just three hits with one walk and one strikeout. When the minor league season ended Monday, the Nationals needed a place for O'Connor to pitch, so they reinstated him to the active roster. However, he is on a tight pitch count, throwing just 63 yesterday.

"I felt good. I didn't feel like I was worrying about anything," O'Connor said. "I felt like I was letting the ball go and not holding anything back."

The Nationals erupted for four runs in the sixth inning against Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter and reliever John Hancock to take a 5-3 lead. Pinch-hitter Brian Schneider hit a bases-loaded single, and Alfonso Soriano produced a two-run, bases-loaded single to center. The Nationals' six hits in the inning was a season high.

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