The snakebit Pittsburgh Pirates, fighting for respectability and their first winning season in 19 years, were robbed against the Atlanta Braves early Wednesday morning at Turner Field, but there's little that can be done about it.

Pittsburgh was victimized by umpire Jerry Meals, who made the wrong call to end a long game that had begun Tuesday night. Here's what happened:

In the bottom of the 19th inning, the Braves had runners at the corners when Scott Proctor hit a ground ball off Daniel McCutchen to third base. Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez fielded it and threw home to catcher Mike McKenry, who tagged Atlanta's Julio Lugo as he tried to score from third.

The play wasn't even close.

Meals, however, called Lugo safe, literally handing the Braves a 4-3 win.

Later Wednesday came the tightly scripted minuet that usually follows botched calls of this magnitude.

Meals admitted his mistake. "I was incorrect in my decision," Meals said with amazing sangfroid.

Major League Baseball said bad calls were part of the game's "human element." Joe Torre, MLB's person for these sort of things said, predictably: "Most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires."

The wronged team filed a formal complaint. "While we cannot begin to understand how umpire Jerry Meals did not see the tag made by Michael McKenry three feet in front of home plate, we do not question the integrity of Mr. Meals," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement.

And the pundits renewed calls for instant replay. "Something's gotta be done," Touch 'Em All said in a statement.

Winless in Seattle no more

Things finally are looking up in Seattle, if ever so slightly.

After a club-record 17 straight losses, the Mariners broke out of the dry spell Wednesday with a 9-2 victory over the Yankees in New York.

It was the Mariners' first win since July 5, when they were at .500 and just 21/2 games back in the AL West. Even with the win, however, the now 44-60 Mariners remained in last place.

Only 10 major-league teams since 1900 have lost more than 18 straight games, with the Phillies setting the all-time record of 23 in 1961. The Baltimore Orioles own the AL mark at 21 straight in 1988.

Nationals make a move on Stairs

For a club that's not going anywhere, the Washington Nationals are not afraid to make moves. Consider this: On Wednesday they added outfielder Jonny Gomes to their 25-man roster and designated first baseman Matt Stairs for assignment.

Gomes, 30, who was acquired with cash considerations from the Reds on Tuesday, was hitting .211 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs this season. He is viewed as a righthanded power hitter off the bench and will platoon with Laynce Nix in left field, on account of his career .281 batting average against lefthanders.

The Nationals have 10 days to trade Stairs, reassign him to the minor leagues, or release him.

Stairs is fondly remembered in Philadelphia as the guy who came off the bench to kill the Los Angeles Dodgers during the Phillies' march to the 2008 World Series.

But don't expect the Phillies to make a move for him anytime soon: The Phils need some righthanded pop in their lineup, and Stairs bats from the left; this season, the 43-year-old has hit a puny .154 with two RBIs in 56 games.

Contact staff writer Francisco Delgado at
This article contains information from Inquirer wire services.