- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 29, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Alfonso Soriano says he’s happy in Washington and wants to remain with the Nationals.

A few more nights like this, and he might change his mind.

The Nationals were pounded by the Los Angeles Dodgers last night, opening their nine-game West Coast trip with a 13-1 shellacking before a sellout crowd of 55,825 at Dodger Stadium.

Washington’s resurgent six-game winning streak, the club’s longest of the season, dissipated in the surprisingly muggy Southern California air during an unsightly ballgame that might as well have been declared over by the time right-hander Tony Armas Jr. departed following the third inning.

Armas, a candidate to be traded before Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline, isn’t going to command much after surrendering six runs and seven hits in just three innings of work. His ERA now a hefty 4.79, Armas (7-6) has won just one of his last six starts.

Given all that, general manager Jim Bowden can’t expect to receive too many calls over the next 48 hours from rival GMs willing to give up serious prospects for the struggling 27-year-old.

Armas labored mightily through this one, needing 72 pitches just to make it through three innings. He really floundered in the second, serving up a two-run homer to Andre Ethier, then allowing three straight singles before finally escaping having allowed four runs. The Dodgers kept up the damage an inning later, with light-hitting Cesar Izturis crushing a two-homer of his own to make it 6-1.

Enter rookie Roy Corcoran, who committed the ultimate relief pitcher cardinal sin: walking the first batter he faced, who happened to be the opposing pitcher, then following that with a four-pitch free pass to the next hitter. A single by Kenny Lofton loaded the bases for J.D. Drew, and the Los Angeles slugger turned the game into a rout by tattooing Corcoran’s first pitch into the right-field bleachers for a grand slam.

That’s about all manager Frank Robinson could stand. He pulled most of his stars, replacing them with seldom-used backups, and essentially waved the white flag toward the Dodgers dugout.

Soriano was one of the starters given a half-day, and given the uncertainty about his future with the Nationals, a brief buzz swept through the ballpark once it was announced he was being pinch-hit for.

Had Soriano just been traded? No, there he was still sitting in the dugout with a smile on his face, joined soon thereafter by a trio of fellow regulars: Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns.

Soriano will see another day with the Nationals. He only hopes he doesn’t experience too many more like this one.

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