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

"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

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

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.