Nats Knock Off Bonds, Giants
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
With all the talk around RFK Stadium focused on those who might be departing town, Ryan Church turned the attention toward the new arrivals.
The recently recalled outfielder knocked in three runs last night to give the Washington Nationals an 8-6 victory in the first of a three-game set against Barry Bonds and the visiting San Francisco Giants.
Bonds took his requisite booing from most of the 33,358 fans in attendance. One fan brought a sign that read "Barroids" and the crowd noise rose to its loudest levels when Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson made a diving backhanded stop to rob Bonds of a hit.
But it was Church who made the most noise by delivering a two-run double that highlighted the Nationals' five-run third inning. He also added an eighth-inning sacrifice fly to provide Washington enough insurance to win its fourth straight game.
"I just come to the yard and I'm prepared mentally and physically," said Church, who rejoined the team Saturday. "That was the biggest thing about going down. It was a reality check and a humbling experience."
Manager Frank Robinson said Church showed signs that he became a better hitter during his time at Class AAA New Orleans.
"He's a little bit more patient at the plate and hitting some pitches he wasn't hitting before and making good contact," Robinson said. "He's more compact right now with his swing. It's not that big, long swing, all or nothing. That was a very good at-bat on the sacrifice fly."
Church's third-inning double into the right-center field gap knocked Giants starting pitcher Matt Morris out of the game early. But Church also took a swing one inning earlier that might have affected the outcome, lining a shot off Morris's right forearm for an infield single.
"I don't think the line drive allowed for [Morris] to put it together," Giants Manager Felipe Alou said. "After that, he couldn't do much."
Meantime, Johnson went 3 for 4 with a pair of RBI for the Nationals and closer Chad Cordero picked up his 16th save despite allowing the Giants to put the potential tying run on base.
"We're getting pretty good starting pitching," Robinson said. "The hitting has come together, we're getting timely hitting throughout the lineup."
Washington starting pitcher Ramon Ortiz entered the game on a three-game losing streak despite posting a 3.86 ERA during that span. He wasn't perfect -- allowing five runs in six innings -- but he didn't need to be. Unlike his last start, a 1-0 loss to Florida on Wednesday, the Nationals provided Ortiz some run support.
"I don't have my best game, but my team wins," said Ortiz, who improved his record to 7-9. "You want that every day."
The Nationals broke open what was a 2-2 game in the third.
With one out and runners on first and second, Johnson singled to center to put Washington up, 3-2. Austin Kearns followed with a walk to load the bases for Marlon Anderson, who slapped a two-run single to right field to make it 5-2. Church followed with the knockout blow to put the Nationals up, 7-2.
Morris exited after allowing seven runs on seven hits in just 2 1/3 innings.
But the Giants used the long ball to climb back into the game. Two homers by Ray Durham and a solo shot by Eliezer Alfonzo cut the Nationals' lead to 7-6.
But that was as close as the Giants would get, partly because of a lack of production by their big slugger.
Bonds finished 0 for 4 while facing a drastic defensive shift by the Nationals.
He was booed during every at-bat, and after making a pair of catches in left field.
The reception during the game, however, was a stark contrast to the welcome that Bonds received during batting practice.
After completing his practice exhibition, which included a shot into the upper deck, Bonds walked toward the Giants dugout and flashed a peace sign to the early arrivals who gathered in the seats behind home plate to get an up-close look.
Box Score, E6