Nats Rally in 9th, Win 5th in a Row

The Nationals' Alfonso Soriano dives back safely to second base on a pickoff attempt as Giants second baseman Ray Durham applies the late tag during the third inning before 30,248 at RFK Stadium.
The Nationals' Alfonso Soriano dives back safely to second base on a pickoff attempt as Giants second baseman Ray Durham applies the late tag during the third inning before 30,248 at RFK Stadium. (By Nick Wass -- Associated Press)

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By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 27, 2006

Austin Kearns has been a Washington National for exactly two weeks. But only last night did he officially arrive.

Kearns delivered his first big blow for his new club, driving in the winning run with a sacrifice fly to cap a two-run ninth inning that pushed the Nationals to a 4-3 victory against the San Francisco Giants.

Barry Bonds received another steady chorus of boos from the 30,248 at RFK Stadium before leaving in the ninth inning with a mild hamstring strain. Another day passed quietly during the Alfonso Soriano Trade Watch. Kearns took center stage to lead Washington to its season-high fifth straight victory.

"It's a matter of getting comfortable," said Kearns, who atoned for a missed opportunity earlier in the game. "Each day is getting better."

Kearns looked comfortable with the bases loaded, one out and the game tied at 3 in the bottom of the ninth. Facing Giants closer Armando Benitez, Kearns sent a high fly ball deep enough to left field to score fellow newcomer Felipe Lopez from third.

"Benitez was throwing pretty hard," said Kearns, who received a roaring ovation from the crowd. He said he was "looking fastball, hopefully up in the zone and I just wanted to get it to the outfield."

For Washington fans, it was their first glimpse of what Kearns could do under pressure. But the sight was not new for Lopez, Kearns's teammate with the Reds.

"He's a clutch guy," said Lopez, who came over in the trade with Kearns. "He comes through when the time is right."

Earlier in the inning, Ryan Zimmerman tied the game with a single to drive in Robert Fick, who drew a leadoff walk to start the Nationals' rally.

Kearns delivered in the clutch despite failing in a similar situation earlier in the game. Giants Manager Felipe Alou called for an intentional walk of Nick Johnson, loading the bases in the seventh inning, to face Kearns. With the Nationals trailing 3-2, Kearns flied out to end the inning.

But Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said Kearns was due to deliver.

"He's a major league hitter," Robinson said. "If you keep giving up chances, he's going to come through. That's why he's up there."


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