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Loaiza's Bottom Line Is Good

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page D05

JUPITER, Fla., March 8 -- The scoreboard looked ugly to the Washington Nationals, with an eight-run fifth leading to a 9-7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. But for starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza, everything was fine.

Loaiza, making his first start against a major league team, allowed seven hits, no walks and one run in four innings, the longest stint for a Nationals pitcher thus far this spring. He allowed at least one base runner in every inning, but calmly worked out of jams while facing several St. Louis regulars, including first baseman Albert Pujols.

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Loaiza's only previous outing came against Bethune-Cookman College, when he allowed one earned run in 2 2/3 innings.

"This is where I'd like to be right now," he said. "My arm didn't bug me at all. I just threw pitches for strikes. . . . I had a great feeling."

The relievers, though, didn't fare as well. Nationals officials like Gary Majewski's stuff, but he failed to retire any of the four hitters he faced -- recording an out only because one runner passed another on the base paths. T.J. Tucker then allowed a three-run homer to John Mabry among the five runs he gave up.

Manager Frank Robinson pulled Majewski aside after he came out and put his arm around his pitcher. Majewski, who gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning Saturday, said his problem is mechanical, but he must be wary of his confidence.

"Confidence level is always big," Majewski said.

Robinson said Majewski must learn to make his own adjustments.

"You have to be your own pitching coach," Majewski said.

Big Day for Chavez

Center fielder Endy Chavez entered Tuesday's game with just one hit on the spring, but rapped out two singles, scored one run and drove in another against the Cardinals. . . .

The Nationals discovered that right-hander Luis Pineda, sent to the minors on Monday, has a stress fracture in his elbow and will be out four to six weeks.

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