Bautista's bombs boost Pirates, 11-4

He hopes two home runs vs. Nationals bring breakout

WASHINGTON -- No matter how down or disappointed, Jose Bautista never quite reaches the point where he measures himself in terms of the Mendoza Line.

Or in terms of being the best platoon player he can be.

Which might explain why, even though he reported to work with a .200 average, even though he was benched twice over the weekend, even though he had been frustrated enough to tinker with the positioning of his socks from one game to the next "just to try something different," he had no trouble holding his head high after the Pirates' 11-4 wipeout of Washington last night at Nationals Park.

Not after two towering home runs and four RBIs.

"Yeah, that's one way to feel better," Bautista said with a half-sigh, half-laugh afterward. "My competitive nature, you know, sometimes it gets the best of me, and it gets to me. I'm emotional. But I don't lose my confidence, man. I don't. I had it when I came in here this afternoon, and I have it now."

  • Box score
  • Statistics
  • Standings
  • Today
    • Game: Pirates vs. Washington Nationals, 1:05 p.m., Nationals Park.
    • TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
    • Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (2-2, 3.26) vs. LHP Matt Chico (0-5, 6.68).
    • Key matchup: Maholm vs. road opponent. He has given up only two earned runs in 201/3 innings at PNC Park, including that two-hitter Sunday, but nine runs in 10 innings everywhere else.
    • Of note: As a tribute to the Homestead Grays, who played their Negro Leagues games in Pittsburgh and Washington during World War II, the teams will wear Grays uniforms.

There were plenty of other contributors, from Nate McLouth and Jason Bay reaching base four times, to Xavier Nady and Ryan Doumit reaching three times, to Doumit and Chris Gomez registering two RBIs, to the bullpen posting five zeroes after freshly converted reliever Phil Dumatrait was limited to four innings.

It was Bautista, though, who made the difference.

For a change.

This output raised his season totals to just three home runs, just 12 RBIs and just .213 for that average, but one has to start somewhere.

"It's good to see," manager John Russell said. "Jose's been working awfully hard, and you can see he's been swinging the bat better lately. It's good to see him have a big night."

All concerned credited a slight mechanical adjustment made by hitting coach Don Long, one that has Bautista's feet a bit closer and his stride less pronounced.

"I'm feeling good up there," Bautista said. "I feel like it's been coming for a while, too. But it's just been a matter of missing. I see the pitches, they're right there, the ones I want ... and I was just missing."

He would see two glaring mistakes on this night, and he most assuredly did not miss either.

To backtrack a bit ...

Washington's John Lannan entered with a 19-inning scoreless streak and a 2.64 ERA, but the Pirates soured all that by scoring six times in the third to chase him. And they achieved that, in large part, by wearing down the 23-year-old left-hander.

McLouth opened with a nine-pitch at-bat that resulted in double. After an out, Bay worked a nine-pitch walk.

Three batters, 20 pitches.

"We're not just throwing at-bats away out there," McLouth said.

Next, Doumit's single brought one run, Nady's single another, and second baseman Felipe Lopez's failure to catch a relay after Doug Mientkiewicz's bouncer made it 3-0.

Bautista doubled that lead with one swing, crushing Lannan's 1-2 fastball -- belt-high, right over the plate and 87 mph -- into the greenery beyond center field for a three-run home run.

Is that what Bautista should do with such a pitch?

"Yeah, I think so," he replied, smiling. "With that count and where it ended up, I think that was a mistake pitch."

Lannan's pitch count was 85 upon being pulled.

"We're making the starting pitchers work," Russell said.

Lannan saw it the same way.

"They fouled off pitches, they battled and waited for their pitches," he said.

McLouth generated another run in the fourth with a single, a steal and, two batters later, Doumit's RBI single that made it 7-1.

Dumatrait had pitched a fairly clean first three innings -- one run, two hits and three strikeouts -- but several banks of lights at the new ballpark blinked out in the bottom of the fourth, causing a 25-minute delay. When play resumed, the Nationals tagged him for three runs to pull within 7-4.

"I thought Phil threw very well in those first three innings, and it's a shame the lights went out," Russell said. "He attacked hitters. It was very encouraging."

Dumatrait's previous six career starts with the Cincinnati Reds, all last season, brought a 15.00 ERA, and he sounded satisfied simply to begin burying that.

"This meant a lot to me, to go out there and have the ball come out of my hand the way it did for those three innings," he said. "I'm not one to make excuses, but that delay kind of threw my out of my groove. Still, I feel like this is something I can build off."

The Pirates' next time up, Bautista tore into another fastball, this on a 3-1 count by reliever Mike O'Connor but just as unimpressive as Lannan's, and lifted it high into the left-field seats.

It was Bautista's second career two-home-run game.

Damaso Marte, John Grabow, Tyler Yates and Matt Capps provided the spotless relief.

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at . First Published May 3, 2008 4:00 AM


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