PITTSBURGH -- All season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been losing games precisely like this.
On Saturday night, they finally got one in the win column.
Ronny Paulino's single to the warning track with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning scored Jason Bay and gave the Pirates a 7-6 victory over the Washington Nationals. Pittsburgh has won two straight for the first time in more than a month.
"We had visited that situation before this year," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "We showed growth with our presence of mind."
Paulino smacked a one-out drive off Roy Corcoran (0-1), who hadn't pitched in the majors since 2004. Bay led off the inning with a walk, Sean Casey singled for the third consecutive at-bat and pinch-hitter Jose Hernandez reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Corcoran struck out Jose Bautista before Paulino's big hit.
"We're doing a lot of things these first two days back (from the All-Star break) that you need to win ballgames," Tracy said.
Many Pirates made references to a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 19 when Pittsburgh had the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth but lost in 11 innings. The Pirates (32-60) had the majors' worst record at the All-Star break.
"Obviously guys are starting to do a lot better in the critical situations," said Joe Randa, who entered the game in the sixth and had two hits and scored two runs. "And it's showing."
The Pirates are on a winning streak for the first time since sweeping the San Francisco Giants on June 9-11. They had not won two straight at home since sweeping Milwaukee in a four-game set from May 29-June 1.
Casey was on base five times and Paulino, Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez each two hits for Pittsburgh in a seesaw game that featured four lead changes.
"It was fun to play," Wilson said. "It was one of those games where you see what this team is capable of doing when we play the game right."
The Nationals used four relievers after sending two of their best bullpen arms, Gary Majewski and Bill Bray, to the Reds in an eight-player trade on Thursday. Washington was also without right-hander Jon Rauch, who was not available due to family matters.
The Nationals used four relievers after sending two of their best bullpen arms, Gary Majewski and Bill Bray, to the Reds in an eight-player trade on Thursday.
Alfonso Soriano, Jose Guillen, Ryan Zimmerman and Brian Schneider each had two hits for Washington, which has lost five in a row.
"We're not getting the things done on the field that we have to get done to win ballgames," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "Any night you leave (14) men on base, you're not taking advantage of your opportunities. It's simple, really."
Things looked better for the Nationals early. Soriano hit the first pitch of the game for his fourth leadoff homer of the season and 27th of his career. It was the All-Star's 28th home run this year.
"We're working hard," Soriano said. "This second half hasn't started off well, but I think if everybody continues to try hard, we will win some games."
Wilson and Sanchez scored on Bay's single to left off Pedro Astacio in the bottom half of the first to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
Guillen doubled in two runs in the second and Schneider singled in a run in the third to help Washington build a 4-2 lead, but the Nationals couldn't hold on.
Sanchez drove in Wilson in the third, and Randa doubled in Bautista in the sixth and scored on Wilson's perfect bunt single to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 lead.
"You don't see it too often," Wilson said of the bunt, which came on the first pitch. "At that point, I thought I would take a chance."
Astacio, making his third start of the season, allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. Alex Escobar reached on an infield single in the seventh to drive in Guillen and tie it at five, leaving Astacio with a no-decision.
Pittsburgh starter Ian Snell lasted five innings, giving up four earned runs and six hits. He struck out six and walked six.
"I didn't have my fastball until the last two innings," said Snell, who threw 114 pitches in five innings. "It was frustrating ... but it feels great for the team because I want them to win so bad."
Mike Gonzalez (3-3) earned the win with a scoreless ninth.
"I didn't see any panic in anyone," Tracy said. "Just a bunch of guys with the recognition that, 'I've been here before."'
- Zimmerman has a 14-game hitting streak.
- Bautista has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games.
- Washington passed the 800-game mark Saturday in terms of games lost to the disabled list.