Piazza's pinch-hit HR caps Padres rally over Nats

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Down by six on the road with four innings to
go, the San Diego Padres could have started thinking about their
All-Star break vacations.

Not these Padres. Momentum at the break is too important,
especially for a team on a winning streak that has it in first
place in the NL West. Mike Piazza's pinch-hit home run in the ninth
finished the rally in Sunday's 10-9 victory over the Washington

"Just when you think you're done," manager Bruce Bochy said,
"man, they just kept fighting."

The Padres, who have won five straight, overcame a 7-1 deficit
with four runs in the sixth, one in the eighth and four in the
ninth. They battered Nationals closer Chad Cordero (5-4) for five
runs over 1 2/3 innings, with Khalil Greene's full-count homer
tying it in the ninth two batters before Piazza put an 0-1 fastball
high off the mezzanine beyond left field.

"Get a good pitch to hit and keep it simple," said Piazza, who
has 12 homers this season. "That's worked pretty much in my career
and I've been blessed to have some success in those situations.
I've got a few kicks left and I'm enjoying it."

The loss was demoralizing to the Nationals, who wasted
three-run homers from Nick Johnson and Alex Escobar and a two-run
shot from Brian Schneider. The defeat completed a 5-5 homestand,
with the team's 38-52 record a far cry from its first-place 52-36
mark at the break a year ago.

"It's a very difficult loss even if we weren't going into the
break," manager Frank Robinson said. "It's a ballgame we had won
a couple of times. It's the type of ballgame we have to win. We
didn't get the job done today in a lot of ways, and it wasn't just
the pitching. Defensively, we did some things out there to help
them and hurt ourselves."

There was more bad news regarding John Patterson, who lasted one
inning because of a recurring forearm injury that recently had him
on the disabled list for nearly two months. He had a cortisone shot
Sunday and will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break.

"This is going to be something right now that has to be
addressed," Robinson said. "We'll have to shut him down until
he's well, period. That's it. There's no sense in crying this, that
or the other. Until he tells us his arm feels great, no problems,
then we'll start rehabbing and hopefully we'll have a real John
Patterson back."

Patterson, who has complained of having a "dead arm," labored
through a 31-pitch inning but allowed only one run. His early exit
marked the third time in five games that the Nationals' starting
pitcher has failed to last two innings.

The Padres also survived a rough outing from their starter, Clay Hensley, who allowed career highs in hits (11) and runs (seven) and
was done after five innings. Scott Cassidy (5-4) got the victory
despite allowing two runs in the eighth. Scott Linebrink worked the
ninth for his first save.

Cordero, meanwhile, was left to throw a career-high 55 pitches.
It was his third blown save of the year, and he was ripe for the
picking by the time he faced Piazza.

"I made mistakes, and they made me pay for it, and that was
it," Cordero said.

The Nationals were cruising with a 7-1 lead after Escobar's shot
in the fifth, his first homer in more than two years. Offensively,
he is starting to look like the Nationals' long-sought solution in
center field -- he went 4-for-4 and is batting .435 -- but he failed
to get a good jump on a pair of drives that turned into doubles
late in the game.

The Padres started their rally by finally cracking the
Nationals' bullpen, which had not allowed a run in 23 innings.
Pinch-hitter Geoff Blum's double into the right-field corner off
Majewski highlighted a four-run sixth.

"Lately we've been trying to suck as many innings as we can,"
Majewski said. "We get a lead and the bullpen just can't hold it.
It's aggravating when you turn to the pen in the second inning four
times a week."

Game notes
The Padres have never lost (6-0) at RFK Stadium. ...
Zimmerman's bunt single in the first inning extended his hitting
streak to 12 games, the longest by a Nationals player this season.
... Escobar's home run was his first since May 23, 2004, with
Cleveland at Tampa Bay. He has a hit in all six games he's played
for the Nationals, including four straight since returning from the
disabled list last week. ... Here's the ultimate sign that Jose
Guillen (.211) is no longer a feared hitter: The Padres
intentionally walked Johnson twice -- in the fifth and seventh
innings -- to face the Nationals' right fielder. Guillen struck out
the first time, and hit into an inning-ending double play the
second time. Guillen has been playing with a sore right elbow, his
fifth injury this season.