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Nats strand 12, fall to Pirates for fourth straight loss

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- At least Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez know
the rest of the time they spend with the Washington Nationals can't
go much worse than this.

Jason Bay drove in two runs and Jose Bautista homered among his
three hits, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-4 victory over
the revamped but still-slumping Nationals on Friday night.

The Nationals played their first game since making a number of
moves during the All-Star break, including an eight-player deal
that landed them Kearns, a starting outfielder, and Lopez, a
shortstop, from the Cincinnati Reds.

Both players were in the lineup, but the Nationals had a
familiar problem while losing their fifth in six games: a lack of
offense. They left 12 on base and Kearns and Lopez, after rushing
to join a new team during the only break of the season, failed
repeatedly to come through with runners in scoring position.

"I don't know if frustrating is the right word but obviously I
wanted to do better," said Kearns, who was 0-for-3 and left four
on base. "But that's how it goes. That's the good thing about
playing every day, you get another chance. It just didn't work out
tonight."

Kearns grounded out against reliever Matt Capps with the bases
loaded and the Nationals down a run in the eighth. He also grounded
out in the first to strand Alfonso Soriano, who had doubled to
start the game.

Lopez, 0-for-4 while leaving six on base, struck out to leave
the bases loaded in the fourth after Pirates starter Zach Duke got
himself into trouble by walking three. Duke threw only 49 of 91
pitches for strikes.

"But you don't want to come to a conclusion after the first
game," Lopez said. "There are a lot of ballgames left and we're
going to do what we can, keep doing what we did before."

It wasn't any better for Lopez in the field. His error for
misplaying Ronny Paulino's line drive also led to a run in the
third on Jack Wilson's sacrifice fly that put the Pirates up 3-1.

"He kind of hit a knuckleball -- it was tough," Lopez said.
"It kind of hit the side of my glove and popped out."

Bay, going 3-for-4, didn't have a letdown after becoming the
first Pirates position player to start an All-Star game in
Pittsburgh since third baseman Bob Elliott in 1944. Bay went
1-for-3 in the All-Star game.

To help give his two All-Stars a short break after they were
under constant media and fan attention in Pittsburgh for days,
manager Jim Tracy excused Bay and Freddy Sanchez from a Thursday
workout.

"There was a lot of buildup for the All-Star Game, almost since
spring training," Bay said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime
experience and I wouldn't trade it for the world, but I'm glad it's
over. Sometimes it takes you a couple of games to get back into the
baseball mode after the break, and sometimes you come out of the
break lethargic."

Duke (6-8) won for the first time in a month despite being
pulled in the sixth inning. Fighting his control -- he walked four --
he gave up three runs in 5 2/3 innings. Duke was 0-2 in five starts
since beating St. Louis 9-7 on June 14.

"I had spurts of inconsistency, and I've got to get through
that," Duke said.

The Pirates won only their second of seven games and fifth in 25
as Sanchez and Bay keyed a two-run first inning against Ramon Ortiz
(6-8). Sanchez doubled and scored on Bay's single, and Sean Casey's
double made it 2-0.

"It was the difference in the game. They got some big hits with
guys on and we didn't," Kearns said.

Bautista hit his 11th homer on the second pitch of the fourth
inning. Bay's third hit of the game, a double, followed Wilson's
double in the fifth that made it 5-2. Wilson also had three hits.

Washington scored in the sixth on two singles, a walk and
reliever Salomon Torres' run-scoring wild pitch, but Lopez grounded
out to leave runners on second and third.

Torres wasn't charged with any runs in 1 1/3 innings despite
throwing the run-scoring wild pitch. Mike Gonzalez pitched the
ninth inning for his 14th save in as many opportunities after
Roberto Hernandez gave up Soriano's RBI triple in the eighth.

Nate McLouth added an RBI double in a two-run eighth against
Reds reliever Jon Rauch.

There were few visible reminders in PNC that the All-Star Game
was played there three days before. The large star in center field
was nearly invisible after the grass was cut in a different
pattern, and all banners and signs were removed except for a large,
lighted All-Star logo behind the stands in right.

Game notes
Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman had two hits to extend his
hitting streak to 13 games (22-for-53, .415). ... The Nationals
have scored an NL-low 411 runs in 91 games. ... Washington has lost
nine of 10 on the road. ... Ortiz is 1-4 in his last six starts.