- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2006

MILWAUKEE — The Washington Nationals have been patiently waiting all season for this.

First it was Tony Armas, who opened the season strong. Then, staff ace Livan Hernandez finally got his act together. Add Ramon Ortiz’s name as the next Washington Nationals veteran pitcher to resurrect a poor early-season start.

The right-hander struck out a season-high seven and allowed just two earned runs as the Nationals cruised to a 10-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers before 21,476 last night at Miller Park.

“A lot of it is his location,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said of Ortiz’s turnaround. “He’s also changing speeds very well now and locating his offspeed pitches and mixing up his offspeed pitches.”

With the win, Ortiz evened his record to 4-4 and brought the Nationals (23-32) within nine games of .500.

In his 11th start, Ortiz allowed four runs in 62/3 innings, but just two of those were earned. He walked just one batter and scattered six hits. Brewers rookie left-hander Dana Eveland (0-3) took the loss and remained winless on the season. The Brewers (26-29) continued their free-fall out of contention in the National League Central with their sixth straight loss.

Perhaps the lack of club ownership saved Ortiz’s season and maybe his career. Fans were clamoring for Ortiz’s fast exit out of town after opening the season 0-4 after seven starts. But without an owner giving the go-ahead, the Nationals couldn’t just release Ortiz and eat his $2.5 million contract for this season.

The club was stuck with him, and now Ortiz seems to have righted himself by winning his last four starts.

“There’s nothing different, everything is coming together,” Ortiz said. “I lost four in a row, but I never put my head down. I kept going because we have a lot of talent and I know I can pitch.”

Ortiz’s ERA is at 5.05, but his strikeouts are up. Coming into last night’s game, the right-hander had struck out 13 in his last three starts.

The Nationals gave Ortiz early run support with three runs in the first two innings, but an error and a Brewers’ home run in the second put Milwaukee back into the game — all with two outs.

Corey Koskie bounced a grounder to first baseman Nick Johnson in the hole between first and second base. Ortiz ran over to cover first base on the play, but Johnson’s throw was wide. Koskie also took second when Johnson’s throw also eluded catcher Brian Schneider, who was backing up on the play.

Damian Miller then hit his fifth home run of the season, cutting the Nationals’ lead to 3-2.

Ortiz then retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced. Four of his seven strikeouts came in that three-inning span.

Ortiz’s four-game winning streak is, in part, a product of his recent run support. The Nationals have scored 24 runs in Ortiz’s last four starts.

Johnson was the Nationals hitting star going 3-for-5 with two doubles, an RBI and a run. Second baseman Jose Vidro went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBI, a HBP and three runs.

But it was Schneider who broke the game open with a bases loaded, three-run double in the seventh off Milwaukee reliever Jeremi Gonzalez. With a 5-3 lead, Schneider’s double to the left-center field began an exodus to the parking lot.

The Nationals claimed an early 2-0 lead in the first, when Johnson doubled, scoring Royce Clayton. Ryan Zimmerman then hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Vidro for his 33rd RBI of the season. He is tied with Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder and Arizona’s Conor Jackson for the most among all major league rookies.

Ortiz scored in the third on Clayton’s single to center to make it 3-0. In the fifth inning, the Nationals added two more on Marlon Byrd’s single to left for a 5-2 lead.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

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