- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2006

One day after a Washington Nationals’ player complained RFK Stadium is too big for baseball, the red-hot New York Mets proved otherwise.

The first-place Mets yesterday hit three first-inning home runs off Nationals ace Livan Hernandez, making RFK look like a hitter’s park. The only ones worried about the stadium’s deep fences, it seems, are the Nationals themselves.

The Mets finished the day with four home runs and 16 hits, handing the Nationals a 13-4 drubbing that was Washington’s worst loss of the season.

The Mets completed a three-game series sweep at RFK before 25,465 in a rare midweek afternoon game. They have won five of six meetings between the teams this season.

Yesterday, the Nationals (2-8) trailed 4-0 before they came to bat.

Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Cliff Floyd all homered in the first inning off Hernandez, who fell to 1-2 and took full responsibility for the debacle.

“Every pitch I threw was a mistake,” said Hernandez, whose ERA ballooned to 7.00 after allowing eight runs — seven earned — on 11 hits in six innings. “You don’t want to make mistakes to good hitters like the Mets. All the Mets’ power hitters hit home runs.”

Ironically, the issue coming into the game was how hard it was to hit home runs at RFK, at least according to Nationals second baseman Jose Vidro. Following Wednesday’s loss, when teammates Nick Johnson, Jose Guillen and Alfonso Soriano all flied out to RFK’s warning track, Vidro criticized the stadium’s dimensions and added that club management did nothing to address the problem in the offseason.

Yesterday, the warning track was not an issue. The Mets, who won their sixth game in a row, scored a season-high 13 runs, easily clearing RFK’s fences with their four home runs.

The game’s fifth home run came courtesy of Johnson, the Nationals first baseman who had a solo shot in the eighth for his third of the year. He finished 3-for-4 with the home run, a double, one RBI and two runs scored.

Afterward, Vidro stood behind his comments.

“I don’t make comments out of frustration, I make comments that I feel need to be said,” Vidro said. “I don’t regret anything I said [Wednesday]. I speak for the ballclub, and if it’s misunderstood by somebody, that’s their problem. I don’t have any problem with what I said. What I said was the whole truth.”

Beltran, Floyd and Carlos Delgado all homered to the power alley in right — one of the deepest parts in the 44-year-old stadium. The Mets hammered five home runs during the series and outscored the Nationals 23-6 over three games.

“They [Mets] kind of shot down that [RFK dimensions] theory a little bit today,” catcher Brian Schneider said. “That just proves to you, if you hit the ball good, the ball is going to get out of here. Hopefully what happened [Wednesday] with all the comments is over with. We certainly don’t need that right now if you are thinking at all about the ballpark.”

Nationals rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had a two-run single in the fourth inning to cut the Mets deficit to 6-2, but New York quickly pulled out of reach again. In the seventh inning when Nationals reliever Joey Eischen allowed five runs on five hits and as the Mets built a 13-3 lead.

After just 10 games, the Nationals are six games behind the front-running Mets (7-1) and in desperate need of a spark. The Nationals yesterday optioned struggling center fielder Brandon Watson and backup catcher Wiki Gonzalez to Class AAA New Orleans and recalled outfielder Ryan Church and utility infielder Brendan Harris.

With a six-game road trip beginning today in Miami against the Florida Marlins, the Nationals are hoping a change of scenery can regroup the reeling club. That may be wishful thinking in manager Frank Robinson’s mind.

“One of the coaches said to me, ‘Well, we’re leaving town, maybe we’ll get back on track.’ I said we’ve never been on track,” Robinson said. “We’re not hitting, we’re not pitching, and we’re not hitting in clutch situations.”

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To submit a question, go to the http://www.washingtontimes.com/sports>Sports Page

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