Series: Game 2 of 4

Series tied 1-1 (as of 7/5)

Game 1: Monday, July 4
NY Mets5Final
Game 2: Tuesday, July 5
NY Mets2Final
Game 3: Wednesday, July 6
NY Mets5Final
Game 4: Thursday, July 7
NY Mets3Final
in 11

Mets 2

(41-42, 16-24 away)

Nationals 3

(51-32, 30-11 home)

7:05 PM ET, July 5, 2005

RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. 

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NYM 000000002 2 8 0
WAS 01000020 - 3 8 1

W: E. Loaiza (5-5)

L: P. Martinez (9-3)

S: C. Cordero (30)

Cordero records 30th save in 33 chances

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It would have been so tidy to say that Esteban Loaiza out-pitched Pedro Martinez on the night an emotional Jose Vidro returned to the lineup.

But, no, the Washington Nationals like to take drama to the extreme. A three-run lead in the ninth was whittled down, with the young All-Star closer hanging on in his first appearance since blowing a big save on the road.

The Nationals beat the New York Mets 3-2 Tuesday night, and the emotion runneth over in the locker room once again after the team's 12th straight one-run victory.

"Another one-run game, man," said Vidro, shaking his head with a big smile. "What excitement."

Vidro was the most spirited of all. The three-time All-Star -- the rock of so many bad Expos teams of years past -- was activated from the injured list earlier in the day after missing 54 games with an ankle he injured while sliding at home plate. He rejoined a team that has become baseball's biggest surprise, winner of 10 of 12 and the NL East leader midway through the season.

Vidro slid at home plate again Tuesday, scoring what turned out to be the decisive run in the seventh inning, then nearly choked up when he got to the dugout.

"I tried to get my legs up, my knee up, so that I wouldn't get anything stuck out there," said Vidro, describing the slide. "But it was so exciting. You don't know how much this means to me. I almost cried. I'm not going to lie. I was so emotional. I love this game. I love to be out there, put my uniform on."

Loaiza (5-5) credited Vidro for giving the team a boost. Whatever the reason, the right-hander had his best game of the season, allowing six hits and striking out eight through eight-plus innings. Loaiza has won four of his last five starts after enduring a spate of no-decisions with little run support early in the season.

"What I did today was amazing," Loaiza said. "I just hit both of my spots on the inside corner and the outside. I threw all of my pitches for strikes and did what I wanted to do with the ball."

Manager Frank Robinson sent Loaiza out for the ninth with a 3-0 lead, but the bullpen was summoned after Cliff Floyd singled to start the inning. Chad Cordero, whose streak of 26 converted save opportunities ended Sunday -- on the day he was named to his first All-Star team -- entered and retired one batter before allowing a one-out single to Marlon Anderson and an RBI single to David Wright.

Right fielder Jose Guillen's throwing error on Wright's hit moved up the runners. Anderson then scored on Jose Reyes' groundout, leaving the tying run on third with two outs. Cordero retired pinch-hitter Brian Daubach on a popup to shortstop to become the first player in the majors this season to get 30 saves.

"It always feels good to get that save -- after you blow one," Cordero said.

For much of the evening, the game was a tense battle between Loaiza and Martinez (9-3), who allowed three runs, eight hits, walked one and struck out six before leaving for a pinch-hitter after seven innings.

"I felt pretty good," Martinez said. "They just battled. These guys are not too bad. It seems like we're playing good, but the other teams are right there, too. I think it's going to come down to pitching at the end, who holds on the longest. And these guys seem to be pretty solid."

The Nationals took the lead when Vinny Castilla led off the second with a double off the left field wall. He moved to third on Matt Cepicky's groundout, then scored on Schneider's single just to the left of second baseman Anderson, who was playing halfway and was slow to react to the ball.

The Nationals got their needed insurance runs in the seventh. Jamey Carroll singled, moved to second on Loaiza's bunt, then scored on Vidro's two-out double to the right-field corner. Guillen, who went 3-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch, singled to make it 3-0.

Game notes

The Nationals batted .286 (8-for-28) vs. Martinez, who was holding opponents to a majors-low .177 entering the game. ... As well as he pitched, Loaiza was just as good on May 18 -- but he got no reward from it. He threw eight scoreless innings against Milwaukee, but the Nationals didn't win the 1-0 game until the bottom of the ninth. ... Nationals starters have a 7-0 record with a 2.70 ERA in their last 11 games. ... Washington's Carlos Baerga failed to take advantage of a rare chance to bat cleanup, going 0-for-4. ... Guillen, who committed the ninth-inning error, was the one upset player in the Nationals' locker room. "I don't want to talk to you guys," he bellowed as reporters approached. Even so, Guillen has a nine-game hitting streak. ... The last two batters in the Mets' order, Chris Woodward and Martinez, went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts before Martinez was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. Woodward started despite a bruised knee, which he injured Monday night when he fouled a pitch at the plate.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press