Braves keep hold over new-look Nationals, 11-2

April 12, 2005|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - If a statement needs to be made that these Washington Nationals aren't simply the old Montreal Expos in shiny, blue "W" hats, last night would have been an excellent time to start.

After playing even through six games, the Nationals headed for Turner Field, the ultimate house of horrors for their previous persona.

For one night anyway, the new uniform produced the same result.

Paced by a pair of two-run homers in the fifth inning and a strong performance by lefty Mike Hampton, the Atlanta Braves thumped the Nationals, 11-2, before 16,584. Washington (3-4) has been outscored 30-5 in its past four games - three of them blowout losses.

"This was not a pretty sight, this was not a good effort on this ballclub's part," manager Frank Robinson said. "And I know we are better than this."

Struggling against the perennial National League East champs is nothing new for many of the Nationals, though. The franchise is just 23-41 at Turner Field since the stadium opened in 1997 and has won only one of the past 10 season series between the clubs. Last season, the Braves took 15 of 19 games.

"They seem to have our number right now," said Nationals second baseman Jose Vidro. "For some reason their pitching seems to shut us down."

Nationals starter Zach Day (0-1) couldn't get through the fifth inning. Already trailing 3-0, Day surrendered two-run homers to Rafael Furcal and Andruw Jones before leaving with one out in the fifth.

Day continually was behind in the count, leading to trouble when he threw strikes.

"When he came in the strike zone, it wasn't very good pitches," Robinson said. "His location was terrible."

The Washington bullpen surrendered four runs in the eighth, an increasing sore spot for the Nationals. They have given up a total of 16 runs in the eighth inning in their past three losses.

"I can put up with you getting your brains beat out, because I know you can get better ..." Robinson said. "Almost every hitter that walked up there we were behind the hitter 2-0, that I cannot put up with."

Hampton (1-0) became the most recent starter to take a shutout deep into a game. He lost the bid when Jose Guillen hit a homer in the seventh. Guillen later scored on a J.J. Davis single in the ninth.

Hampton pitched eight strong innings, scattering seven hits and never allowing two base runners on at the same time.

NOTES: Wil Cordero had successful surgery yesterday in Cincinnati to repair a medial meniscus tear in his left knee. The club is now estimating the first baseman could return in three to four weeks.

Outfielder Alex Escobar had successful surgery (bone grafts and screws removed) on his right foot in Baltimore yesterday and will begin rehabilitation in Melbourne, Fla., soon. He'll be out eight to 12 weeks.

Right-hander Tony Armas threw two simulated innings yesterday and is scheduled to make a rehab start Friday for Triple-A New Orleans. Robinson said Armas, on the 15-day disabled list with a right groin pull, will make three starts for New Orleans.

Reserve catcher Gary Bennett wasn't supposed to make his first start in place of Brian Schneider until tomorrow afternoon. But Robinson decided to rest the left-handed-hitting Schneider against Hampton.

Nationals tonight

Opponent: Atlanta Braves

Site, time: Turner Field, Atlanta, 7:35

TV/Radio: Ch. 20/104.1 FM

Starters: Nationals' Esteban Loaiza (0-0, 5.40) vs. Braves' Tim Hudson (1-0, 1.80)

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