- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 16, 2006

Alfonso Soriano’s quest to join the exclusive 40-40 club is going to have to wait another day.

Part of the reason is that Milwaukee Brewers rookie reliever Carlos Villanueva was virtually unhittable for six innings last night. The right-hander entered the game for injured starter Tomo Ohka and hardly looked like a pitcher who has bounced up and down from the minor leagues three times this season.

As Villanueva fooled the Nationals, Brewers outfielder Geoff Jenkins hit two home runs off Washington starter Ramon Ortiz to lead Milwaukee to a 5-2 victory over the Nationals before 21,168 at RFK Stadium.

Villanueva (1-1) took over for Ohka in the third inning and retired the first 16 batters he faced. His streak ended with one out in the eighth inning when Brewers rookie first baseman Prince Fielder allowed Nook Logan’s ground ball to go between his legs.

The Nationals were unfamiliar with Villanueva, but manager Frank Robinson said that’s no excuse for not putting runners in scoring position.

“At this time of year, you’re going to see a lot of people that you have not seen before — callups and things like that,” Robinson said.

The Nationals (63-84) managed to load the bases with two outs in the ninth inning and pinch hitter Austin Kearns representing the winning run at the plate. Brewers reliever Francisco Cordero picked up his 13th save when he struck out Kearns to end the game.

Villanueva’s first big-league victory was highlighted by striking out Soriano twice in this game. Soriano, who remains one stolen base short of becoming the fourth player in baseball history with at least 40 homers and 40 steals in the same season, was 0-for-3 last night against Villanueva.

Villanueva, who began the season at Class AA Huntsville, allowed his only run in the ninth inning when the Nationals’ Felipe Lopez led off with a triple into the right-field corner and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI single to left.

Batting in the third inning, Ohka led off with what appeared to be a routine grounder to second. He legged out an infield hit when he beat second baseman Jose Vidro’s throw to first. Ohka then removed himself from the game with what was diagnosed as a strained right hamstring.

The Nationals traded Ohka to the Brewers last season in exchange for second baseman Junior Spivey, who played a little more than a month for Washington before he broke his right forearm in a freak batting cage accident at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals opted not to re-sign Spivey after last season and he spent all of this season in the minors at Class AAA Memphis, a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate.

So the jury’s still out on which team received the better end of the trade.

At least Ohka’s 32-pitch outing didn’t place Soriano in baseball’s history books. Ohka issued a leadoff walk to Soriano to open the Nationals’ half of the first inning. In trying to hold Soriano at first, Ohka threw the ball wild to Fielder, and Soriano advanced to second on the error.

Soriano said afterward he was prepared to run on Ohka in the first inning. That was the only chance Soriano had all game to steal a base.

Ohka “made a bad throw to first base, and I wasn’t going to try third with nobody out and a lefty [Lopez] hitting at home plate, so I didn’t even have one chance to steal one base tonight,” Soriano said.

Soriano later scored in the inning when Zimmerman hit into a double play to shortstop. Soriano’s run gave the Nationals a short-lived 1-0 lead. Ortiz did little to protect his lead.

The last time Ortiz pitched in RFK he was masterful and nearly tossed a no-hitter against the Cardinals when he allowed two hits in 82/3 innings. But last night Ortiz (10-14) labored for five innings until Robinson had seen enough. Ortiz allowed five runs on eight hits.

Ortiz already had thrown 87 pitches by the fifth inning. In his near no-hitter against the Cardinals, Ortiz tossed 95 pitches in total. Ortiz’s 14th loss of the season tied him with San Diego’s Jake Peavy and Colorado’s Aaron Cook for the second-most in the National League.

“I think it was an awful game I threw tonight,” Ortiz said. “I tried to make pitches down and they hit everything. When I threw good pitches, they hit it, too.”

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