Nats Win To Snap 3-Game Slide

Ryan Zimmerman slides home safely to score on Alex Escobar's sacrifice fly in the third inning as the Nats jumped on Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis to take the early lead and then held on.
Ryan Zimmerman slides home safely to score on Alex Escobar's sacrifice fly in the third inning as the Nats jumped on Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis to take the early lead and then held on. (By Jamie Squire -- Getty Images)

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By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 10, 2006

Washington Nationals right-hander Ramon Ortiz was not necessarily taking it personally, but the numbers were emphatic: In his nine losses, his teammates had scored only 17 runs and were shut out three times.

So how refreshing it must have been for Ortiz last night when the Nationals pushed across two runs in the bottom of the first inning -- and tacked on three more, with repeated chances to blow open the game -- on their way to a 5-2 win over the Florida Marlins at RFK Stadium.

Ortiz has worked into the seventh inning in 12 of his last 15 outings and provided the kind of sturdy effort that Manager Frank Robinson would like to see from all his starting pitchers.

But Robinson immediately deflected any talk of Ortiz (9-9) being dubbed a staff savior, with Livan Hernandez (traded) and John Patterson (hurt) not in the rotation.

Even so, Ortiz's nine wins lead the team, and he has a 3-0 record with a 3.96 ERA in his last four starts.

"One guy can't step up for five guys," Robinson said. "I need a five-man rotation that's going to go out and keep me in the ballgame."

Ortiz certainly did that, mixing pitches and speeds in throwing 71 of his 105 pitches for strikes. He struck out six, and for the first time in seven starts, did not walk a batter or give up a homer.

Ortiz, showered with a standing ovation when he left the game with two outs in the seventh, also rejected the notion of being any sort of staff ace.

"I don't think like that," he said. "The day I pitch, it's my day."

Ortiz's most recent day started out on a shaky note. He allowed a run in the first when Alfredo Amezaga singled, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Mike Jacobs. And in the second, Jeremy Hermida led off with a broken-bat double and Hanley Ramirez reached on an infield single.

But from that point, Ortiz set down the next three batters and allowed only four more hits -- three of them singles -- before being pulled with two outs in the seventh.

From there, Micah Bowie, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero closed out the win to help snap the team's three-game losing streak, with Cordero notching his 20th save. Bowie left the game with a mild back strain that might shelve him for a few days.


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