Orioles 9

(12-17, 4-11 away)

Nationals 6

(9-22, 7-9 home)

    7:05 PM ET, March 31, 2006

    RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. 

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    BAL 200024100 9 - -
    WAS 002010210 6 - -

    Benson pitches four innings as Orioles beat Nats

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pitching one day after his wife filed for divorce, Baltimore Orioles starter Kris Benson allowed two runs and five hits over four innings Friday night in a 9-6 victory over the Washington Nationals.

    Anna Benson, an actress and model, petitioned for divorce on Thursday, claiming the couple's seven-year marriage is "irretrievably broken." Kris Benson believes his outspoken wife is a reason the New York Mets traded him to Baltimore in January.

    Benson said he was able to set aside the personal distractions -- at least while he was on the field.

    "I'm sure it has something to do with my personality and just the way that I think out there," said Benson, who was credited with the victory and is 2-2 this spring. "You just have to talk yourself into things sometimes.

    "I thought plenty about it in the previous days leading up to this, and I'm going to be thinking about it the next few months. It's just a matter of me concentrating on 35 days out of the year and making the most out of those days. My focus right now is just on my kids and baseball. In some ways it's kind of good that I can kind of get away with all the distractions and frustration through baseball. Now the game's over, so it's back to trying to figure out what's going to happen."

    The game was the first in the "Battle of the Beltway" exhibitions, a two-day, home-and-home series between the neighborhood rivals. It provided Nationals fans a tease before the regular-season opener Monday at the Mets -- the first of seven straight road games before the home opener against the Mets on April 11.

    The Orioles open at home on Monday against Tampa Bay. Baltimore and Washington will meet in two long-awaited regular-season interleague series on May 19-21 and June 23-25.

    RFK Stadium welcomed 18,442 fans Friday night, and they witnessed an adventurous game for rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

    Zimmerman, the 2005 first-round draft pick whom the Nationals hope will become the face of the organization for years to come, hit two doubles, made two fine plays in the field, committed one error and was very close to a second. His troubles in the field led to three unearned runs in the sixth.

    Zimmerman fisted a pitch to right center in the fourth inning and never stopped running, turning a routine single into his second double of the night. In the field, he charged to make an effortless barehanded pickup and throw to nab Jeff Conine in the first inning, then recovered nicely after a bobble to throw out Miguel Tejada and retire the side in the fifth.

    However, the rookie also made his eighth error of the preseason on Jay Gibbons' routine grounder to start the sixth. Two batters later, Zimmerman failed to pick up Kevin Millar's slow roller toward the hole. The play was initially ruled an error, then changed to an infield hit for Millar.

    Four batters later, Luis Matos broke open the game with a two-run double against Jon Rauch. Rauch pitched only one inning and allowed four runs and four hits, but only one of the runs was earned because of Zimmerman.

    Melvin Mora, who said he is "really close" to agreeing on a new contract following a meeting earlier in the day with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, had two hits and an RBI. Mora has indicated this could be his last year in Baltimore if he doesn't get a new deal by opening day.

    "I hope everything will be fine before the season starts," Mora said, "because I don't want to talk during the season."

    There were positives and negatives all around for the Nationals. Brandon Watson maintained the scrappy play that won him the starting job in center field, Jose Vidro showed no effects of his knee injury as he scored from first on a double, and Alfonso Soriano was cheered warmly by the home fans, who appeared to harbor no ill feelings over his initial refusal to move from second base to the outfield while the team was in Florida.

    On the other hand, there was a two-base error by Guillen in the first inning -- the kind of simple misplay one would have expected from Soriano -- and an uneven performance from John Patterson, who allowed three earned runs and six hits over five innings.

    Game notes

    The Orioles claimed Raul Chavez off waivers from Houston. The 33-year-old catcher had played for the Astros' organization since 2000, splitting time between Houston and Triple-A affiliates New Orleans and Round Rock. He hit .172 in 37 major league games last year. Manager Sam Perlozzo said he will carry one fewer outfielder if he keeps Chavez on the opening day roster. ... The Orioles released utility infielder Desi Relaford.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press