NEW YORK -- By any reasonable measure, the Pirates' acquisition of Xavier Nady for Oliver Perez two years ago from the New York Mets has been a toss-up, fair and square.
As Mets general manager Omar Minaya put it earlier in the week, "it's one of those deals that helps both teams."
For one afternoon, though, the exchange appeared immensely lopsided, and it was very much reflected in the Pirates' 13-1 romp at Shea Stadium ...
He reached base all five times up, lashed a double and two singles and drove in three runs to become the National League leader with 26 RBIs.
He lasted all of 1 2/3 innings and was charged with seven runs, all in the second inning, on two hits and a ghastly five walks. He threw only 28 of 55 pitches for strikes and was visibly flustered from the outset.
- Box score
- Game: Pirates vs. Washington Nationals, 7:10 p.m., Nationals Park.
- TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (0-2, 5.34) vs. LHP Odalis Perez (0-3, 3.31).
- Key matchup: Pitcher vs. leadoff batter, from either side. The Pirates have Nate McLouth, and Washington's Cristian Guzman and Felipe Lopez have combined for 38 hits, tied with McLouth alone for most of any team in Major League Baseball out of the top spot.
- Of note: The Pirates, who were 3-6 at RFK Stadium, will make their first visit to the new 41,888-seat Nationals Park, based just south of the Capitol with views of several of Washington's landmarks.
It is possible, some might suggest, that each player carried a bit of extra motivation, as is common in these cases, but both firmly rejected it.
"No, not at all," Nady said. "I enjoyed my time here, but I'm not thinking like that at all."
Neither, insisted Perez, was he, despite his emotional temperament and the fact that, in his only other start against the Pirates, in July at Shea, he similarly crumbled in giving up five runs in an 8-4 loss.
"No, this is not the first time I faced my old team," Perez said. "Sometimes, you just don't have your stuff."
Mets manager Willie Randolph was more blunt: "He was all over the place. Whether it was mechanical or a lack of focus, he didn't have a good game."
Whatever the case, as much as Perez was responsible for New York's poor start, as much as the Pirates deserve credit for pouncing on him, the most glaring overall aspect of the afternoon was the Mets' abysmal defense: They committed three official errors, as well as several other miscues and lapses to hand the Pirates an outrageous nine unearned runs.
Each one brought a torrent of boos from the crowd of 46,788.
"In 162 games, you're going to have stinkers like that," Randolph said.
The smell emanated early ...
Perez opened that second by walking Nady and, after fanning Adam LaRoche, he walked two more to load the bases for mound opponent Tom Gorzelanny, a career .045 hitter. His double-play bouncer was muffed by second baseman Luis Castillo. One run was across, bases still filled.
Nate McLouth walked to keep the cycle going. Freddy Sanchez singled, Jason Bay hit a sacrifice fly and Ryan Doumit singled, each bringing one more run. Doumit managed to take an extra base on his, thanks to shortstop Jose Reyes inexplicably failing to cover second after Doumit was hung up between bases.
Nady's two-run liner into right-center made it 7-0.
"Oliver was a little erratic, so we just wanted to be patient and try to put some pressure on him," Nady said. "It was nice to get that big hit we've needed."
Especially, McLouth added, after the Pirates went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position the previous night in the 5-4, 11-inning loss.
"How's that for an answer?" McLouth said.
Pirates manager John Russell, too, liked what he saw.
"There were some walks, but we took advantage of them with some big hits," Russell said. "We swung the bats really well."
Gorzelanny pitched five scoreless innings, tiptoeing around five walks but limiting New York to one hit. But the Pirates' hits -- and the Mets' misses -- kept coming.
In the fifth, Sanchez's single followed a McLouth double to make it 8-0.
In the sixth, back-to-back doubles by Doumit and Nady brought one run and, after two outs, an error by third baseman David Wright allowed another and two grisly misplays by left fielder Angel Pagan led to three more, and it was 13-0.
Back to Nady ...
His 26 RBIs in the season's opening month were the most by any Pirates hitter since Willie Stargell's 27 in 1971. And, if that were not enough, his average is .337, he has hit safely in 21 of his first 26 starts and he has played a good, sometimes very good right field.
"Right," Bay said, grinning. "And this is the guy who had the worst spring training you've ever seen."
"The most important thing for me, really, is to just stay healthy and be out there every day," Nady said. "I feel like this is what I can do when I get a chance to have a lot of at-bats. I've always felt that way."
Maybe more impressive in its own way, McLouth's RBI total is 25, this despite batting leadoff on a team that has gotten little production from the bottom of the order.
"That's just unbelievable," Nady said.
"I'm really not looking at the numbers," McLouth said. "I'm just trying to take a consistent approach."
His average: .342.
Between them, Nady and McLouth have driven in 40 percent of the Pirates' 126 runs. No other player has more than 10 RBIs.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at email@example.com . First Published May 1, 2008 4:00 AM