Nats continue streak amid questions

Nationals continue streak amid questions

WASHINGTON -- On a normal day, most of the postgame questions would have gone to Nick Johnson, asking about his clutch two-run single in the seventh inning that gave the Nationals the lead over the Giants for good. But too many questions remain for this to have been considered a normal day.

Many of the questions on Thursday went to left fielder Alfonso Soriano and starting pitcher Livan Hernandez, as this could have been their final home game at RFK Stadium. Soriano homered to lead off the first and scored a key run in a three-run seventh, while Hernandez threw seven strong innings. They played a big role in Washington's 6-5 victory over San Francisco before 29,717 -- and both said they'd like to return again.

The victory completed the Nationals' sweep of the three-game series and extended their season-best winning streak to six games. Washington (46-56) now must see what general manager Jim Bowden does by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. But both players said they know they'll just have to wait.

"I don't know what will happen," Soriano said. "I have to wait [and see] if something happens. I don't have control [of potential trades]."

Hernandez made his feelings about staying very clear.

"I [am not] going to feel good [if I'm traded]," Hernandez said. "I've got to say the truth. I do a lot of good things for this organization. I want to be here. I want to be in the new stadium. I think it's very important for me. They treat people first class here -- the organization treats me perfect. It's hard for me, hard to leave. I'm not going to feel good [if I'm traded]. I think I'm going to feel so bad. I don't want to think about that."

Both turned in strong performances in Thursday's game. Hernandez earned his team-best eighth win and got back to the .500 mark by allowing three runs on six hits in seven innings. He retired the side in order in five of those innings.

Hernandez's only problems came when he allowed one run in the third and two in the fourth. But the right-hander bounced back to retire the final 10 batters he faced.

Soriano belted his 32nd homer, sending a deep shot to left field leading off the bottom of the first inning. He later drew a key walk before scoring in the seventh. Washington manager Frank Robinson is delighted with how Soriano hasn't let the swirling trade rumors affect his play.

In fact, he's seemed to play even better.

"He set the tone again today," Robinson said. "Alfonso has been great. He's been cheering [in the dugout], and I think the players feed off of that. He plays at an Alfonso Soriano level."

But the day's decisive plays came from Johnson and Austin Kearns, each of whom got a clutch hit in the three-run seventh that gave the Nationals a 6-3 lead.

Johnson delivered a two-out, two-run single to right off Jonathan Sanchez that broke a 3-3 tie. Sanchez relieved starter Matt Cain (7-7) with two outs and the bases loaded, and he quickly threw two balls to Johnson before the first baseman jumped on the following pitch for a line-drive single.

"I just tried to get a good pitch to hit," said Johnson, who is now 5-for-11 this season when batting with the bases loaded. "I wanted to get a quality pitch to hit and [drive it]."

Kearns followed with an RBI single off Vinnie Chulk for a 6-3 lead.

The Giants rallied three times in the game despite not having Barry Bonds in the lineup. After Soriano's first-inning homer, Eliezer Alfonzo tied the game with a solo shot in the third. Ryan Zimmerman gave the Nationals a 3-1 lead with a two-run homer off Cain in the bottom of the third.

The Giants (51-51) then tied it with two runs off Hernandez in the fourth. Alfonzo helped again, lofting a sacrifice fly to center field. Jose Vizcaino followed with an RBI single, and the game stayed tied until Washington took charge in the seventh.

Chad Cordero came on in the ninth to retire the Giants for his 17th save, but he had to work for it. Ray Durham got a one-out single, and Alfonzo cut the lead to one with his second homer of the game, a two-run shot to left field. But Cordero then struck out Todd Greene to end the ballgame.

The Nationals head to the West Coast to play the Dodgers this weekend with a lot of questions. Robinson said he just hasn't thought about who might be on the team and who might not when it returns to Washington. Johnson said it wouldn't be nice to lose a player like Soriano, whom he's played with in New York and Washington. And Hernandez clearly wants to remain a National.

But in the end, all of them know they just have to wait. Soriano said that several times.

But as he exited the clubhouse, dressed in a slick brown suit with tinted shades and a rolling suitcase in hand, Soriano turned back to the room and said with a smile: "I'll see you fellas. I had a good time with you guys."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to reporter Bill Ladson contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.