WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Alfonso Soriano experiment produced home
run No. 17, stolen base No. 12, and league-leading outfield assist
No. 9 on Friday night.
The move that made the Washington Nationals a laughingstock in
the spring is now producing a clubhouse full of smiles for a team
that has won four straight and six of seven.
The converted second baseman went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a
two-run homer and three runs scored in a 10-4 victory over the Los
Angeles Dodgers, who had a seven-game winning streak snapped.
"He's not your typical leadoff hitter," Nationals manager
Frank Robinson said, "but he certainly makes thing happen."
Brian Schneider went 2-for-4 in his return from the disabled
list, Ryan Zimmerman had three RBI for the second straight game,
and Livan Hernandez (3-5) allowed six hits over seven innings to
win his second straight start. Every Nationals starter except the
pitcher got at least one hit, and Brett Tomko (5-2) was chased
after 4 2-3 innings, his shortest outing of the year.
"Everybody's bat is coming along. It's kind of catching,"
Robinson said. "You can't force these things, nobody can explain
it. Baseball's one of those things. A team starts doing things
right, and all of a sudden you're having success, and it seems to
rub off on everybody throughout the lineup."
Soriano is proving to be the spark plug. He was so miffed at
being converted to the outfield that he refused to take the field
during a spring training game. He's still an adventure to watch
defensively -- his assists come because the opposition keeps testing
his novice outfield skills -- but the four-time All-Star said this
is his best offensive season of his career. His 10 home runs at RFK
Stadium in 21 games matches the most by any National since baseball
returned to the ballpark last year.
"I feel more comfortable at home plate," Soriano said. "I
think I'm more patient now. I wait for my pitch, and that's what
it's all about."
Soriano got his assist in the fifth, when Willy Aybar hit a pop
up to left that landed out of the reach of Soriano, shortstop Royce
Clayton and third baseman Zimmerman. Aybar tried to stretch the
single into a double, but Soriano picked up the ball and whipped it
to Jose Vidro for the 7-4 putout.
Soriano has accounted for 75 percent of the Nationals' outfield
assists this year. The other outfielders on the roster have three
"In the meeting, the other team, they say, 'If you've got a
chance to run, then run," Soriano said. "I've never played left
field. I'm not too comfortable in left field. Maybe in a couple of
months, I feel more comfortable in left and I stay there. Who
Soriano led off the first with a double and scored on a single
by Vidro, who entered the game leading the NL with a .347 average.
Vidro walked in the third, and he and Nick Johnson scored on
Zimmerman's double over the head of center fielder Kenny Lofton.
Soriano doubled off the right field wall in the fourth and
scored on a single by Clayton, giving the Nationals a 4-0 lead. The
Nationals chased Tomko in the fifth, when Damian Jackson tripled
Tomko allowed nine hits and a season-high six runs.
"I just got in a lot of deep counts, got behind pretty much
everybody," Tomko said. "When you're behind, basically you're
just flipping a coin. I just wasn't making pitches when I needed
Schneider, who had missed 14 games with a strained left
hamstring, was a welcome returnee. The Nationals struggled at
catcher in his absence, especially Thursday, when Matthew LeCroy
allowed seven stolen bases and made two throwing errors before
Robinson reluctantly removed him for Robert Fick after three
batters in the seventh. The move upset the manager so much that he
shed tears when discussing it after the game.
Trailing 6-0, the Dodgers finally got to Hernandez in a
three-run seventh, keyed by Olmedo Saenz's two-run double. But the
Nationals answered with two in the eighth off reliever Lance
After the game, the Nationals outrighted C Wiki Gonzalez to
New Orleans and purchased the contract of RHP Shawn Hill from the
Triple-A club. Hill will start Saturday, taking the injured Zach
Day's spot in the rotation. ... The 10 runs were more than the
Dodgers had allowed in their previous six games combined. The last
time they allowed 10 runs was May 3 at home against San Diego. ...
After going 8-17 in April, the Nationals are 12-12 in May.