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Soriano's leadoff HR sparks Nats to extend streak

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- Just as he has every day for the better part of a week, Alfonso Soriano showed up at RFK Stadium, answered dozens of questions about the likelihood he'll be traded, sparked the Washington Nationals to a win, then talked some more about his uncertain future.

Possibly playing his final home game in D.C., Soriano homered in his first at-bat Thursday, and the Nationals beat the San Francisco Giants 6-5 for their season-high sixth consecutive victory.

"I don't know what happens tomorrow, but I'm still here," Soriano said after helping the franchise complete its first undefeated homestand of at least six games since the Montreal Expos went 6-0 from Sept. 6-12, 1993.

"It's a very good feeling, especially if it's my last game -- I hit a leadoff homer for my fans here in D.C.," he added. "I'm going to be very sad if I have to leave."

What a change from spring training, when he balked at switching from second base to left field: On Thursday, fans kept yelling at him not to leave, and he waved his glove toward the standing ovation that ushered him and his teammates off the field.

What happens next, though, is up to general manager Jim Bowden; Soriano did say he probably wouldn't consider re-signing with Washington if he's traded and then becomes a free agent.

Soriano's 32nd homer, off Matt Cain (7-7), was his sixth leadoff shot of the season, tying for the major league lead. He's at the center of talks as Monday's trade deadline approaches, and the Nationals now embark on a nine-game road trip.

"He's been upbeat. He's the same. He's cheery. He's 'Let's go! Let's win a ballgame!' And I think the team has fed off of that, been very upbeat," manager Frank Robinson said. "If he's going to go, they want to send him out on a good note or they want to put a lot of pressure on management to keep him here by winning ballgames."

Another candidate to leave in the coming days is Livan Hernandez (8-8), the workhorse of the franchise's rotation since arriving from San Francisco before the 2003 season. The burly right-hander made the first start in Nationals' history last year and was the leader of a surprising run to first place during the first half of 2005, opening 12-2 and making the NL All-Star team.

Hernandez has tried to put the thought of a trade out of his mind, but if he is dealt, he said, "I'm not going to feel good. I've got to say the truth. I want to be there. I want to be in the new stadium (in 2008). ... It's hard for me. It's hard to leave because I don't want to."

If this was his final start for Washington, Hernandez left on a strong note, retiring the last 10 batters he faced.

Troubled by his right knee, which had offseason surgery, Hernandez struggled for much of this season. But he said after his last start that his knee has improved, and he's 3-0 over his last six starts, despite a 5.88 ERA over that span.

"He could have a good second half," Robinson said, "because he's consistently throwing the ball better."

Chad Cordero recorded his 17th save despite giving up a two-run shot to Eliezer Alfonzo in the ninth, his second homer of the game. But Cordero struck out Todd Greene to end the game and deal San Francisco its fourth loss in a row.

"We always play good against the good teams. But the teams that are under .500, we don't play too well," said Jose Vizcaino, who started for injured shortstop Omar Vizquel, then left in the eighth with a hurt shoulder. "If we want to win, we have to beat those teams that we're supposed to beat."

The Nationals are within 10 games of .500 for the first time since June 21, and Soriano's been leading the way, hitting .422 with five homers, seven RBI and 14 runs in 12 games since the All-Star break.

"His name's out there every day. To do what he's doing, it's not easy, and it's pretty fun to watch," said Austin Kearns, who went 3-for-4 for his first multihit game since joining the Nationals from the Reds in a trade July 13.

Said catcher Robert Fick: "I know it's weighing on Sori -- but you can't tell."

About an hour after the game, Soriano headed toward the team bus, dressed in a taupe suit and striped tie. Before walking through the home clubhouse door for what could be the last time -- with Hernandez a few steps behind -- Soriano stopped and turned.

"I'll see you, fellas!" he yelled, and smiled.

Notes

  • Barry Bonds was out of San Francisco's lineup, as he usually is for a day game after a night game, and manager Felipe Alou didn't consider using him as a pinch hitter. "I saw him as the game was being finished with a bat in the tunnel. But by that time, the game was over," Alou said.
  • Nationals rookie 3B Ryan Zimmerman hit his 13th homer.
 
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Soriano goes 1-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored. He also leads off the game with a homer.  (AP)
Soriano goes 1-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored. He also leads off the game with a homer. (AP)

Players of the Game
Washington

R. Zimmerman
AB 3
R 2
H 1
HR 1
RBI 2
San Francisco

E. Alfonzo
AB 3
R 2
H 2
HR 2
RBI 4
 
San Francisco Giants
Randy Winn, CF4000001 .267
Todd Linden, RF4010030 .333
Shea Hillenbrand, 1B-3B4000012 .292
Mark Sweeney, LF4110010 .271
Ray Durham, 2B4220000 .277
Pedro Feliz, 3B-SS4000002 .264
Eliezer Alfonzo, C3224000 .301
Jose Vizcaino, SS3011000 .223
    Todd Greene, 1B1000010 .296
Matt Cain, P3010011 .182
    Jonathan Sanchez, P0000000 .000
    Vinnie Chulk, P0000000 .000
Totals34585076 
Batting
2B - Ray Durham (16, Hernandez)
HR - Eliezer Alfonzo 2 (9, Hernandez, C. Cordero)
SF - Eliezer Alfonzo (2)
RBI - Eliezer Alfonzo 4 (23), Jose Vizcaino (5)
2-OUT RBI - Eliezer Alfonzo 2 (11), Jose Vizcaino (2)
Team LOB - 3
San Francisco Giants
Matt Cain (L,7-7) 6.2566572 4.87
Jonathan Sanchez0100000 1.37
Vinnie Chulk 1.1100010 4.85
HBP - F. Lopez (by Matt Cain)
Pitches-Strikes - Matt Cain 106-60, Jonathan Sanchez 3-1, Vinnie Chulk 25-15
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Matt Cain 10-2, Vinnie Chulk 2-1
Batters Faced - Matt Cain 30, Jonathan Sanchez 1, Vinnie Chulk 5
Washington Nationals
Alfonso Soriano, LF2211210 .289
Felipe Lopez, SS2100010 .266
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B3212102 .291
Nick Johnson, 1B3012122 .305
Austin Kearns, RF4031000 .273
Marlon Anderson, 2B4000034 .264
Ryan Church, CF4000010 .238
Robert Fick, C3100100 .250
Livan Hernandez, P2010000 .293
    Micah Bowie, P0000000 .000
   a- Daryle Ward, PH1000000 .296
    Chad Cordero, P0000000 .000
Totals28676588 
a-grounded out for Bowie in the 8th
Batting
HR - Alfonso Soriano (32, Cain), Ryan Zimmerman (13, Cain)
SH - Felipe Lopez (6), Livan Hernandez (8)
RBI - Alfonso Soriano (63), Ryan Zimmerman 2 (68), Nick Johnson 2 (50), Austin Kearns (54)
2-OUT RBI - Nick Johnson 2 (13), Austin Kearns (24)
SB - Felipe Lopez (26, 2nd base off Cain/Alfonzo)
CS - Austin Kearns (2, 2nd base by Cain/Alfonzo)
Team LOB - 6
Washington Nationals
Livan Hernandez (W,8-8) 7633051 5.70
Micah Bowie (H,3) 1000010 1.35
Chad Cordero (S,17) 1222011 3.75
Pitches-Strikes - Livan Hernandez 92-64, Micah Bowie 10-7, Chad Cordero 12-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Livan Hernandez 7-9, Micah Bowie 1-1, Chad Cordero 2-0
Batters Faced - Livan Hernandez 27, Micah Bowie 3, Chad Cordero 5
Game Information
Attendance - 29717
Game Time - 2:27
Temperature - 90
Umpires - Home - Jerry Meals, First Base - Andy Fletcher, Second Base - Mike Reilly, Third Base - Jeff Kellogg