Ortiz Given a 'Jolt,' Helps Nats to Victory

Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 5, 2006; 2:16 AM

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 4 -- There was reason for joy, really, because the Washington Nationals had just scored four runs in the top of the sixth inning, the rally that spurred them to a 6-2 victory over the San Diego Padres Friday night. They were cruising, up by five runs over the team that leads the National League West. So what if Ramon Ortiz walked the first hitter he faced in the following frame?

Yet here came Frank Robinson, Ortiz's manager. Robinson's team is in last place in the NL East. His pitchers had walked 392 batters to that point in the season. It was nothing new. But he charged out anyway, 70 years old in an out-of-the-way game on a random Friday night over the course of a long summer.

The conversation with Ortiz, if it can be called that, lasted less than a minute. It was completely one-sided. Ortiz and catcher Brian Schneider looked on as Robinson emphatically displayed his displeasure. How could a pitcher be granted a five-run lead, and then walk the leadoff hitter on five pitches?! He pointed at Ortiz. He gestured and jabbed. Then, he turned and left the mound, only to end up back in the dugout, stewing.

Asked why he approached Ortiz, Robinson said, "To get on his [rear] a little bit, get him back in the strike zone.... Sometimes, that's what it takes -- a little jolt."

So consider Ortiz jolted. He threw two strikes to the next man he faced, rookie Josh Barfield, and then followed with a third. Barfield grounded into a double play, and though Ortiz allowed a solo homer to pinch hitter Rob Bowen in the inning, that was all the Padres would get.

"It's good," Ortiz said. "Look, Frank -- I got a double play."

Ortiz finished with a six-inning outing in which he somehow allowed only two runs while giving up seven hits and five walks. But at the behest of his manager, he bore down when he needed to -- and won.

Robinson's confrontation with Ortiz provided some spice to the Nationals' third win in four games. But it came from other sources as well. Shortstop Felipe Lopez, bordering on torrid of late, went 2 for 4 with his third homer as a National. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman went 2 for 3 and sparked the sixth-inning rally with a two-run homer that scored Lopez ahead of him.

And what would a Nationals' victory be without something spicy from Alfonso Soriano? Naturally, he hit an RBI double, a two-out bouncer past third base that put the Nationals up 2-0 in the fifth. He promptly got thrown out stealing third -- inexplicably, it would seem, given that Lopez was at the plate, there were two down, and a base hit would have scored him from second anyway.

Soriano, then, is still something of an adventure, a free swinger and a free thinker. At some point, though, it would figure teams would start thinking about Soriano's presence in left field.

"They should," Zimmerman said.

No, he hadn't played a regular season game in left field before Opening Day this year. Yes, his play out there -- after a major league career spent at second base -- has been something of an adventure. But somewhere, someone must have noticed that Soriano entered play this weekend leading the majors in outfield assists.

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