Atlanta (8-9) at Washington (7-10)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Washington, DC
Temp: 75° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Sun Apr 23, 2006
  • TV: ESPN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Only a rainout could cool off Washington Nationals left fielder Alfonso Soriano.

The Nationals look for their sixth win in seven games when they face the Atlanta Braves on Sunday in an abbreviated series.

Soriano hit a career-high three home runs and tied his personal best with five RBIs to lead Washington (7-10) to a 7-3 win over Atlanta in the series opener on Friday.

Soriano became the first National to homer twice in a game at RFK Stadium. He also was the first player to hit three in a game for the franchise since Tim Wallach did it for the Montreal Expos against the Braves on May 4, 1987.

“Big home run. Big, big, big home run in the eighth inning,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said of Soriano’s third homer, a three-run shot that capped the scoring. “The other two were big, too.”

It was the first three-homer game in Washington since the Senators’ Jim King did it against the Kansas City Athletics on June 8, 1964.

The Nationals have outscored opponents 42-23 in the last six games, going 5-1 in that span. Soriano has been a key part of Washington’s recent surge, batting .379 (11-for-29) with six runs scored.

Acquired in the offseason from the Texas Rangers, Soriano was the focal point of controversy in spring training when he refused to switch from second base to left field for the Nationals. Washington already has Jose Vidro, the franchise’s longest-tenured player, to play second base.

Soriano relented after general manager Jim Bowden threatened to place him on the disqualified list and withhold his salary. Soriano has started every game in left field this season.

The four-time All-Star is hitting .500 (9-for-18) with six homers and 13 RBIs in his last four games against the Braves.

John Thomson (0-0, 1.23) will try to slow down Soriano when he makes his third start of the season for the Braves (8-9) after two relief appearances. He has faced Soriano seven times in his career, allowing five hits including four doubles.

The right-hander pitched six shutout innings on April 16 in a 4-3 loss to the San Diego Padres. The stint was Thomson’s longest of the season as he continues to recover from elbow soreness during spring training.

Tony Armas (1-2, 3.71 ERA) looks to build off his first win of 2006 for the Nationals. The right-hander allowed three runs and seven hits, but walked a season-high four over seven innings in Washington’s 10-3 rout of Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Armas is 4-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 19 career starts against the Braves, but Washington has won only four of those games.

Ramon Ortiz was not pleased about being bumped from his scheduled start Saturday, but Robinson said Ortiz can help in other ways until his turn comes up again.

“I just felt like it’s better for (Armas) to stay in his regular turn, and that way everybody else stays in their regular turn,” Robinson said. “Ramon can go down to the bullpen and help us out there if needed.”

Saturday’s postponed game, the first at RFK Stadium since the Nationals relocated, has been rescheduled for Sept. 18.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Thomson KC vs. T. Armas Atl
2-7 Record 9-12
4.82 ERA 5.03
46 K 97
32 BB 64
1.56 WHIP 1.50