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Nationals’ Guzman pounds Bucs



Published: Sun, May 4, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

His six RBIs helped Washington edge Pittsburgh, 9-8.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cristian Guzman battled injuries the past two seasons. He’s finally healthy this year and has the numbers to prove it.

Guzman matched a career high with six RBIs, including a tiebreaking three-run double in the sixth inning, and the Washington Nationals held off the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-8 on Saturday.

Guzman missed the 2006 season while recovering from shoulder surgery and was limited to 46 games last year by hamstring and thumb injuries.

“This year is different,” he said. “Last year, I was hurt. This year, thank God, ... I am healthy.”

Guzman is returning to the form that spurred the Nationals to sign him to a $16.8 million, four-year deal in November 2004. He went 4-for-5 and scored two runs to earn his team-best 11th multihit game and end a 1-for-13 slump.

Nationals manager Manny Acta, whose club’s .228 average entering the game was next-to-last in the majors, welcomed the offensive surge.

He was particularly happy with the top of the order — leadoff man Felipe Lopez and Guzman reached base a combined seven times Saturday.

“It’s always nice to score that many runs when you give up as many as we did,” Acta said.

Jose Bautista homered and drove in three runs for the Pirates. He has three homers and seven RBIs in the last two games.

Washington, which has won five of six, pushed across four runs in the sixth inning to take a 9-5 lead. Wily Mo Pena led off with an infield squibber for a hit against Paul Maholm (2-3), who walked pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard before being yanked in favor of Franquelis Osoria.

Lopez hit a flyball to right that Xavier Nady lost in the sun and Guzman cleared the bases with a double to right-center. Austin Kearns added a two-out RBI single.

Jesus Colome (1-1) got five outs and Jon Rauch worked the ninth for his seventh save in nine opportunities.

Maholm, who pitched a two-hitter in his last start April 27, gave up seven runs and 10 hits, walked three and struck out two.

“The first two innings, for some reason, I didn’t have it. Couldn’t follow through, and for some reason, I was falling behind everybody, trying to fight back,” Maholm said. “You can’t let them get ahead that early.”

The Nationals sent nine men to the plate and scored three runs in the second to take a 5-1 lead. Guzman hit a bases-loaded RBI single, Ryan Zimmerman drove in a run with a fielder’s choice and Lastings Milledge added a run-scoring single.

Bautista hit a leadoff homer against Washington starter Matt Chico in the fourth, and the Pirates knocked the left-hander from the game during a three-run fifth.

Freddy Sanchez singled with one out, went to third on Jason Bay’s double and scored on an infield single by Nady. Adam LaRoche then singled in Bay and Chico departed. Bautista tied it with an RBI single off Colome.

Chico allowed five runs — four earned — and eight hits and three walks. He struck out four.

Nady doubled home two runs off Luis Ayala in the eighth, making it 9-8.

“We had a lot of opportunities early in the game,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “We had a couple of opportunities later to add on. You can’t fault the guys. They continue to swing the bats. They got down early and came back.”

Guzman put Washington ahead 2-0 in the first, homering to left after a leadoff single by Lopez. It was Guzman’s third of the year.


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