Nationals 3, Mets 2
NEW YORK (AP)—Alfonso Soriano spoke proudly about all he has done this season.
Down the hall, the Mets showed little concern about what they haven’t been doing.
Soriano hit his 40th double, stole his 41st base and scored a run. With 45 homers, he already was only the fourth major league player with 40 homers and 40 steals in a season.
“Personally, those are good numbers,” he said. “I am happy with the way that I’ve been playing now that my family and fans are very proud of me. And I’m very happy with the numbers I’ve put up this year.”
Austin Kearns homered and Felipe Lopez drove in a run and scored for the Nationals, who opened their final road series of the season by improving to just 28-50 away from home. They have won only four of their last 16 road games.
Part of the problem had been Astacio (5-5), who was 1-3 with an 11.52 ERA on the road. But he limited the Mets to two runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings before three relievers shut out the NL East champions the rest of the way. Chad Cordero worked the ninth for his 28th save in 32 chances.
Endy Chavez had three hits and drove in a run for the Mets, who played without three regulars and lost their third straight and sixth in eight games. They have scored three or fewer runs in seven of those games.
“As it gets closer to postseason, we have to bear down and make sure that we can springboard into the playoffs,” third baseman David Wright said. “We’re still in that honeymoon period after clinching, and we’ll buckle down here.”
Orlando Hernandez (10-11) pitched well except for the third inning, when he allowed two hits, hit two batters with pitches and gave up two runs. He went seven innings, allowing three runs and six hits while striking out eight and walking one.
Soriano was hit by a pitch with one out in the third, stole second and went to third when Mike DiFelice’s throw went into center field for an error. Lopez singled to make it 1-0, stole his 40th base, and scored when rookie Ryan Zimmerman singled for his 100th RBI.
“It’s given a lot of thrills and a lot of enjoyment in watching those guys produce and come through in tough situations, clutch situations and making things happen for this ballclub,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said about Soriano and Zimmerman. “It’s been a joy to watch those guys.”
Soriano and Lopez made Washington the first team with 40-steal teammates since 1993, when Luis Polonia (55) and Chad Curtis (48) did it for the Angels and Marquis Grissom (53) and Delino DeShields (43) did it for the Expos, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Soriano led off the fifth with his 40th double, but was left at third after Hernandez struck out Zimmerman and Nick Johnson.
With the Nationals in last place in the NL East, individual accomplishments have helped provide some motivation for Soriano.
“It’s a bit difficult to come out to the stadium when the team is in last place,” he said, “especially for me who came up with the Yankees and all the time with my mind on winning.”
Washington got that run back in the sixth when Kearns led off with his 24th homer.
Pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee got the Mets to 3-2 in the seventh with a homer that cleared the bullpen in right, and Chavez followed with a bunt single to chase Astacio. Delgado was intentionally walked with two outs, but Wright bounced into a forceout against Saul Rivera.
“We’d like to win all the time but it’s not really a big deal for me really, as long as we’re playing well,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “You’d like to get a few extra situational hits. Tonight we had a couple of times to do that but we didn’t get it done. So we’ll go out and get ‘em next day. But I’m not concerned.”
The last 100-RBI season by a rookie was in 2003, when the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui drove in 106. … The Mets and Nationals, who met eight times in a one-month span to open the season, play six more times in the final nine days. … Ledee’s homer was the 10th of his career as a pinch-hitter. … Washington has won nine straight one-run games.