- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Washington Nationals’ second home opener proved to be a dud, both on the field and in the stands.

The Nationals looked lifeless on the field in a 7-1 loss to the New York Mets, producing only three hits against rookie right-hander Brian Bannister and two relievers. The RFK Stadium crowd of 40,530 - about 6,000 shy of capacity - also lacked enthusiasm, producing only a handful of sustained ovations for the proceedings on a gorgeous April afternoon.

“They didn’t have anything to get rowdy about,” said Nationals manager Frank Robinson, whose club fell to 2-6 for the season.

One year after an electric inaugural-season home opener, the atmosphere at RFK yesterday wasn’t nearly the same. Vice President Cheney threw out the ceremonial first pitch to a mixture of boos and cheers, with plenty of empty seats visible throughout the ballpark.

Once the game started, the Nationals struggled to get anything going offensively. They were held in check by Bannister for the second time in a week, failing to score a run until Alfonso Soriano’s solo homer in the seventh.

By then, Washington was already well behind. The Mets jumped on starter Ramon Ortiz for four runs in the fourth and fifth innings combined, then piled it on late to run away with an easy victory.

The two teams resume their three-game series tonight at RFK, with Mets ace Pedro Martinez on the mound and the Nationals desperate to start turning around their season.

“That’s the beauty of baseball: It is a long, long season,” Robinson said. “And things happen over the course of a season. If you asked me my druthers, I’d rather be 6-2 than 2-6. But the season’s not near over yet.

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