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Nationals have won 15 of last 16 at RFK Stadium

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Chad Cordero got out of ninth-inning trouble,
and the Washington Nationals won another close game.

Vinny Castilla and Brian Schneider homered as the Nationals beat
the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5 Thursday for a three-game sweep.

Washington has won 15 of its last 16 home games and taken nine
series in a row at RFK Stadium. The NL East leaders set a franchise
record with 20 wins in June.

"That's a tremendous year, or month, I'm sorry," manager Frank
Robinson said. "After the last three years, it seems like a year.
That's a tremendous month, and the players deserve an awful lot of
credit for the way they have performed and the way they have
handled things. They just keep going out and doing the job."

Cordero earned his 15th save in June to tie a major league
record set by Lee Smith in 1993 and matched by John Wetteland in
1996. Cordero wiggled out of a second-and-third, no-outs jam in the
ninth inning for his 25th straight save and major league-leading
28th overall. He retired Ryan Doumit on a routine fly with the
bases loaded for the final out.

"I'm kind of getting used to it because I've been thrown into
it so many times," Cordero said. "I was getting a little worried
when they were at second and third with no outs, but I really have
no idea how I do it."

Esteban Loaiza (4-5) held the Pirates hitless until David Ross
doubled with two outs in the fifth.

Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon was ejected in the second inning
for arguing with plate umpire Chris Guccione. Pittsburgh lost for
the 13th time in 17 games.

Kip Wells (5-8) struggled with his command in a brief outing,
walking four batters and allowing four runs in two innings. Wells
has lost four straight starts, allowing 20 runs in 16 2-3 innings.

Castilla hit a solo homer into the mezzanine level in left field
and a two-run single in helping the Nationals build a 7-4 lead.

"Every time you hit a home run it's a great feeling, especially
when you help the team win a ballgame," Castilla said. "I hit it
pretty good, but I didn't think it was going to go way up there."

Pittsburgh scored once in the eighth on consecutive singles by
Jason Bay, Daryle Ward and Ryan Doumit. Ward was later throw out at
the plate on a grounder and pinch-hitter Matt Lawton popped out to
end the inning.

Down by two runs, the Pirates quickly threatened in the ninth
with a single and double. Cordero retired Rob Mackowiak on a
shallow fly ball and struck out Bay before intentionally walking
Ward to load the bases. Doumit flied to right field to end it.

"We were a base hit away from tying the game, but we just
couldn't get it done," Wells said. "These are the games that have
eluded us. That's what we have to do if we want to compete in the
National League."

Loaiza struck out six, including five on called strikes, and
walked none. He gave up four runs and five hits, and pitched into
the sixth.

Brad Wilkerson led off the Nationals' first with a single, moved
up on a walk to Jose Guillen and scored with two outs on a bloop
single by Marlon Byrd. After Wells walked the bases loaded in the
second, Guillen hit an RBI single and Castilla's single made it
4-0.

Reliever Ian Snell replaced Wells and gave up Schneider's fifth
home run of the season, a drive that made it 6-0 in the third.

Pittsburgh scored twice in the fifth, and Ward singled home two
more runs in the sixth. Castilla homered in the seventh.

Game notes
Nationals SS Cristian Guzman left in the ninth, an inning
after straining his left hamstring running out a bunt. Robinson
said Guzman will travel to Chicago and may be available to play at
the end of the series... McClendon was ejected for the fourth time
this season. ... Nationals 1B Wil Cordero doubled in the fifth
inning for his second hit of the season, ending an 0-for-17 slump.
He also walked in the third inning to snap a streak of five
straight strikeouts.