- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2007

MIAMI — While the Washington Nationals had their opportunities and didn’t take advantage, Miguel Cabrera had his chances and most certainly did.

Cabrera hit a pair of long home runs yesterday, and the Florida Marlins’ pitching staff worked out of several jams to secure a 5-3 victory against the Nationals in front of 12,119 at Dolphin Stadium.

Josh Willingham also homered for Florida as the Marlins hit three home runs for the third straight game against Washington. Cabrera and Willingham hit three each in the series.

“People like to say speed kills — I think power kills,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “Those guys out-homered us 9-0 [this weekend], and it was taking us two or three hits to score a run. They just came up and ‘Whack.’ ”

It was Cabrera’s ninth two-homer game of his five-year career and second this season. The first gave the Marlins a 2-1 lead, but the second was a monstrous blast down the left-field line that landed nine rows up in the upper deck.

It traveled an estimated 471 feet, and it took a search party of five people several minutes to find it in vacant section 411. Both were leadoff home runs, and he walked in his other two at-bats. The 24-year-old slugger from Venezuela now has 21 for the season and 125 in his career.

“He is one of the elite hitters in all of baseball. I don’t think we are alone with that,” Acta said. “His batting average lifetime says so. Our plan is to just try and not let him beat us, and those two pitches he hit out were supposed to be off the plate, but they were just mistakes.”

One night after failing to mount a rally for the first six innings, the Nationals had chances aplenty against Florida starter Scott Olsen (7-7). It started in the first inning when Olsen walked the first two batters.

His wildness elicited three conferences at the mound — two with shortstop Hanley Ramirez and one with Cabrera — but he got Ryan Zimmerman to fly out and Dmitri Young to ground into a double play.

Washington picked up a run in the third on a sacrifice fly from Young, but Austin Kearns just missed an extra-base hit with two men on when Alfredo Amezaga tracked down his fly ball a few feet to the left of where he snagged Zimmerman’s near home run two nights earlier.

The Nationals added another run in the fifth but again went back to the field wanting. Felipe Lopez singled with the bases loaded to score Nook Logan, but Amezaga threw out Ronnie Belliard at the plate.

“We had to take a chance,” Acta said. “We weren’t scoring that many runs, and that is a question that is always asked when the guy gets thrown out. I don’t think you would have asked that if he had been safe.”

Olsen left after five innings. Part of his line (six hits, five walks) was ugly, but he yielded just the two runs and earned his first win in three starts.

“It’s not always us that is the problem. Sometimes the guy is just good,” said Zimmerman, who went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts. “He gets paid to pitch just like we get paid to hit. He made pitches when he needed to. He got himself into a lot of trouble by walking some people and getting behind in the count. Then it seemed like whenever he had runners in scoring position he’d get ahead, and then he could do whatever he wanted.”

Young singled home Belliard in the seventh to cut Florida’s lead to 5-3, and then the Nationals‘ best chance to complete a comeback came in the eighth inning. Often unpredictable reliever Armando Benitez walked the first two batters, but Jesus Flores failed to get a bunt down and then struck out. Pinch hitters Robert Fick and Tony Batista followed with soft fly balls to end the threat, and closer Kevin Gregg had no trouble in the ninth.

Jason Simontacchi (6-7) also worked his way out of several jams but allowed the three home runs, including two on the first pitch of at-bats. He allowed five runs on nine hits and four walks in 41/3 innings, making it the third time in five starts the Nationals‘ leader in wins has given up at least five runs and not lasted five innings.

“I pitched bad, and they hit good,” Simontacchi said. “I was getting behind in the counts and getting balls over the plate and not hitting my zones. It doesn’t matter who you are throwing to; if you throw the ball over the plate and work behind in the count, you are going to get hurt.”

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