- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — Alfonso Soriano put on a clinic and reached two milestones last night against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Rookie Ryan Zimmerman offered a strong supporting role and the Nationals beat the Phillies 6-4 in front of 30,123 at Citizens Bank Park.

In the first inning, Soriano tied his career high, hitting his 39th home run of the season. In the second inning, Soriano became the first player in baseball history not named Bonds to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases at least four times in a career .

Former Montreal Expo Vladimir Guerrero is the only other player in franchise history to post a 30-home run, 30-stolen base season.

But Soriano, who last night went 4-for-6 with a home run, one RBI, and two runs scored, has his sights set higher. He wants to join Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez in the exclusive 40/40 club.

“Yeah, 40/40 is more special because only three players did that,” Soriano said. “I got close in 2002 (39 home runs and 41 stolen bases) and a lot of my friends and my family have a spot in their hearts because I got so close.”

Meanwhile, Zimmerman, Felipe Lopez and Tony Armas Jr. helped hand the National League wild-card chasing Phillies a loss. Zimmerman drove in a career-high five runs, going 3-for-5 with a home run and double.

“He had a great night, that’s all,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “He was very good up there and came through in the clutch tonight, which he has been doing a lot this year.”

Nationals starter Armas (8-8) received the win but struggled, getting behind batters all game. In his last outing, Armas allowed just one unearned run but didn’t receive a decision despite pitching seven dazzling innings in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Mets.

Things fell apart for Armas in the sixth inning last night. Armas dug a hole for himself when he walked Chase Utley to start the inning. With one out, Pat Burrell broke up Armas’ shutout bid with a double into the left-field corner that scored Utley and made it 6-1.

After an infield single by Aaron Rowand, Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal narrowed the deficit when he doubled over center fielder Ryan Church’s head, and cut the Nationals lead to 6-3. Then in the eighth, Lieberthal homered off reliever Jon Rauch to trim the lead to two.

Nationals closer Chad Cordero pitched a perfect ninth inning to pick up his 23rd save of the season.

“We don’t make it easy on ourselves,” Robinson said. “We don’t take advantage of the opportunities to maximize the opportunity that you have to put clubs away.”

Philadelphia’s troubled starter Brett Myers (8-6) contributed to Soriano’s big evening. Myers, who had a highly publicized incident in Boston earlier in the summer when he was charged with assaulting his wife on a city street, gave up two of Soriano’s four hits.

Soriano’s memorable night began with a home run on the third pitch of the game. Myers grooved a 1-1 pitch to the Nationals’ slugger. Soriano belted it into the center-field promenade — a place called “Ashburn’s Alley” — named after Phillies legend Richie Ashburn.

Soriano’s blast easily cleared the 409-foot mark in the deepest part of the ballpark and had fans scrambling after the ball as soon as it bounced on the walkway.

It was the ninth time this season Soriano has hit a leadoff home run and the 33rd time in his career he has opened a game with such authority.

Soriano needs just one homer and one outfield assist to become the first player in major league history to notch 40 homers, 30 stolen bases and 20 outfield assists.

Guerrero’s single-season franchise home run mark of 44, set in 2000, appears to be in serious jeopardy. In homers, Soriano is tied for third-place on the franchise’s all-time. Guerrero hit 39 in 2002.

Soriano also needs just one home run to become the eighth player in major league history to hit 40 or more in their first season after switching leagues.

“People have asked me before what I think of Soriano and he’s right there with Vladdy,” said Armas, who played with Guerrero for four seasons [2000 to 2003] in Montreal. “I’ve had a chance to play with Vladdy and he’s a great player and ‘Sori’ is at the same level he is. It’s an honor to play with a guy like that.”

Soriano stole his 30th base of the season in the second inning. Before the game, Lieberthal was honored for having caught the most games in Phillies history with 1,125. To honor the occasion, Soriano promptly swiped second after he singled to right field to leadoff the second inning.

Only the father and son duo of Bobby and Barry Bonds have recorded more than three 30/30 seasons. The Bondses have five 30/30 seasons apiece .

Following Soriano’s solo homer to lead off the game, Zimmerman gave the Nationals a 3-0 first-inning lead with his 17th home run of the season off Myers into the left-field seats.

The Nationals extended their lead to 5-0 in the second inning on Zimmerman’s two-run double into the left-field corner that scored Soriano and Lopez. Lopez led off the third inning with a double to deep center field and gave the Nationals a 6-0 lead on a Zimmerman bloop single to right.

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