Ortiz and Nationals Battered by Braves

Chipper Jones, left, high fives Andruw Jones after hitting his third home run of the game as the Braves battle to stay above the Nats in the NL East cellar.
Chipper Jones, left, high fives Andruw Jones after hitting his third home run of the game as the Braves battle to stay above the Nats in the NL East cellar. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson would've liked to have sat back in the dugout last night at RFK Stadium, set aside the mounting concerns about his last-place team and admired another outstanding effort by Ramon Ortiz, his most reliable starting pitcher of late.

Instead, in a fitful evening highlighted by Atlanta's robust hitting, Robinson saw very little of Ortiz and a whole lot of Chipper Jones and Matt Diaz.

Jones smashed home runs in three consecutive at-bats, Diaz collected hits in his first four at-bats to tie a National League record and by the time the Braves' 10-4 demolition of the Nationals was complete, Ortiz's deficient effort had been long forgotten by the thinning crowd of 21,550.

What was wrong with Ortiz, who had gone at least six innings in his previous five starts but didn't make it through the fifth last night?

"Nothing," Robinson said. "Seriously. He just didn't have his good stuff and didn't get ahead of hitters so he could mix up his pitches to be able to be effective. He just didn't really have his good command.

"You're dealing with human beings and they are going to have off nights, they are going to have off games. It just wasn't his night. You're not dealing with machines; a human being can't do that."

Perhaps not, but Jones and Diaz offered machine-like precision.

Jones, who had come off the disabled list Sunday, homered in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings -- the last one a massive drive off Travis Hughes into the upper deck in right field -- and finished with five RBI.

Diaz homered in the second inning and then singled in the fourth, fifth and seventh to equal the NL mark for hits in consecutive at-bats (10). The streak set a franchise record and moved him within two of the major league standard accomplished by Boston's Pinky Higgins in 1938 and Detroit's Walt Dropo in '52.

In his final appearance, however, Diaz bounced out to shortstop, concluding a memorable night in which he also had four RBI and raised his batting average to .351.

Ten players in NL history had recorded 10 straight hits, most recently Bip Roberts in 1992.

Robinson had been appreciative of Ortiz's effort in recent weeks, a stretch that included three victories and a no-decision and, in his previous two starts, three earned runs allowed in 12 2/3 innings.


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