- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Directions to RFK: Driving | Metro

ATLANTA — It took 10 days. It was accomplished by a pitcher with major control issues. But in the end, Tomo Ohka became the first Washington Nationals starter to win a game.

In his career, Ohka has walked only 2.3 batters per nine innings. Against the Atlanta Braves yesterday, however, he matched his career high with six walks in six innings.

“Ohka was not good, but he held on out there and got us six innings,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “He was all over the place and didn’t get into a good groove at all. He kept me on the edge of my seat for six innings.”

Ohka (1-1, 4.50 ERA), who picked up his first win since last May, threw 89 pitches and 40 were balls. Ohka allowed three runs on four hits.

“It’s a good thing for the starters and the team,” Ohka said of his victory. I lost my balance and some of my mechanics. I was pitching bad, but I got a win and the team got a win.”

The right-hander, now 29, suffered an injury June 10 when Carlos Beltran’s line drive shattered his forearm. A plate was implanted in Ohka’s forearm, where it remains today.

In the second inning yesterday, Ohka relived that nightmarish moment when Braves leadoff man Rafael Furcal hit a sharp line drive back to the mound with two out and runners on first and second. Ohka held his ground and snagged the ball.

“I remembered [the injury] after the catch,” Ohka said. “I don’t think negative things, but I remembered it just a little bit.”

Vazquez’s return

Javier Vazquez, former ace of the Montreal Expos staff, will face the Nationals tonight at RFK. Vazquez, who was Robinson’s Opening Day starter in 2003, was part of the Randy Johnson trade that saw the New York Yankees send the Diamondbacks Vazquez, catcher Dioner Navarro, pitcher Brad Halsey and cash for the Big Unit.

Despite Vazquez’s 0-1 record and 15.43 ERA this season, Robinson remembers the Puerto Rican right-hander as a decent pitcher. On Dec. 4, 2003, the Expos dealt Vazquez to the New York Yankees for first baseman Nick Johnson, outfielder Juan Rivera and left-hander Randy Choate.

“I expect [Vazquez] to try real hard to beat us,” Robinson said. “He’ll probably try a little harder than he normally would. I’m not saying he doesn’t go hard at all times, but this has to be a special assignment for him going out there against us for the first time since he was traded. He has great stuff.”

Quick pitches

Nationals third baseman Vinny Castilla confirmed that he will play in tonight’s home opener against the Diamondbacks. Castilla, who did not start the last two games in Atlanta because of a sore shoulder, said he feels good.

Castilla, who had been listed as day-to-day, said he injured himself during batting practice before Tuesday’s dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Braves. He said he experiences the most pain trying to throw overhand. …

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox was ejected by umpire Randy Marsh in the middle of the first inning after riding Marsh from the dugout because of ball-and-strike calls against Braves starter John Thomson. It was the 114th ejection for Cox, who needs one win to tie Hall of Famer Leo Durocher for eighth place on the all-time list at 2,008. …

Nicky Hilton, the younger sister of Paris Hilton, served as the Braves’ honorary team captain. Hilton, who brought out the Braves’ lineup, used the occasion to help promote her newly created clothing line with help from three members of the Braves Youth Advisory Board who served as pre-game models.

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