By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
When asked Friday afternoon what he will miss least about RFK Stadium, Washington Manager Manny Acta had a ready answer.
"The fences," he said, in reference to the park's unfriendly power-hitter dimensions. "Not having to hear all the crying and complaining every time one of my guys hit a long fly ball and it doesn't go out. I won't miss that."
The Nationals might not miss RFK when they vacate the premises for good following this weekend's four-game series with Philadelphia, but the Phillies might. As Washington continues to say its long goodbye -- or is it good riddance? -- to its outmoded, nearly 46-year-old home, Philadelphia's hitters have been saying so long to baseballs flying out of the soon-to-be-jilted ballpark.
Friday night in a 6-3 win over the Nationals in front of an announced crowd of 26,949, Ryan Howard hit a solo shot in the second inning (his 42nd), Pat Burrell added a two-run blast in the third (his 29th) and Jimmy Rollins added a solo job in the fifth (his 29th) -- all off starter Shawn Hill -- to stake the Phillies to a four-run lead. Jayson Werth and Howard homered in their team's 7-6 win Thursday night.
It marked right-hander Hill's shortest outing since July 9, 2004, when the Nationals were still the Montreal Expos.
"Just leaving a lot of balls over the middle of the plate," said Hill, whose three homers allowed were a career high. "They're a good hitting team. Didn't have a lot of good movement on the ball today. Yanked a lot of pitches. Letting a lot of balls kind of fly on me a bit. They're all good hitters. You leave those pitches where they can get to them and they're going to do what they did."
Hill will undergo surgery on his left shoulder Oct. 4, four days after the regular season ends, and he acknowledged that the injury was "bugging" him. Friday night the most severe damage was done to his 3.01 ERA, which took a hit when he allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Hill (4-5) gave up eight hits, struck out two and walked one in an all-around unpleasant 92-pitch effort. He had allowed three earned runs or fewer in 14 of 15 starts.
Hill might be another one glad to see RFK in his rearview mirror. Despite several strong outings, he has gone 1-4 at home this season.
So the Nationals (68-86), 3-5 so far on their final homestand at RFK, still have some work to do if they want to top last year's record of 71-91 and ensure that they stay out of the National League East cellar, Acta's stated goal of late. Meantime, the Phillies have won eight of their last nine.
"To me, right now, I've got my own little race," Acta said before the game. "Everybody here knows. I'm scoreboard-watching every day about the Marlins. I don't want to finish last. This team has finished last the last three years, and we want to cut it off.
"The Phillies will be looking at the Mets, and the Mets at the Phillies, Padres and Diamondbacks and them. I'm looking at the Marlins. I just want to finish ahead of them."
After Friday night's games, Washington was two games ahead of Florida.
The Nationals stranded at least one runner in six innings. They scored a run in the first when Austin Kearns drew a bases-loaded walk, but Robert Fick flied out to left to end the inning with three runners on base. Ryan Zimmerman struck out with runners on the corners to end the second.
Both came through in the fifth, however, when Zimmerman doubled off the wall and later scored on Fick's two-run, two-out single that made it 6-3. Pinch hitter D'Angelo Jimenez drew a leadoff walk to start the sixth to chase Phillies right-hander Adam Eaton (10-9), who in five-plus innings surrendered five hits, five walks and hit two batters but picked up his first win in two months. But Jimenez was stranded at second.
Actually, Eaton hit one batter -- Wily Mo Pe¿a -- on two separate occasions. The left fielder left the game after the second plunking, and an X-ray on his right hand was negative. He is listed as day-to-day with a contusion and might undergo an MRI exam in a couple of days if he does not feel improvement. Right now, it hurts to swing a bat.
That was the third time in two games that Pe¿a had been hit by a pitch. He said he does not necessarily think it has been intentional, but he is puzzled nonetheless.
"Let's say I play tomorrow and something happens," Pe¿a said. "I'm not going to take that. Three times in two games -- that's too much."