Ortiz lifts Nats past Marlins

Ortiz lifts Nats past Marlins

WASHINGTON -- After the Nationals stopped their three-game losing streak by defeating the Marlins, 5-2, on Wednesday night at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, manager Frank Robinson stopped a reporter short of asking whether or not right-hander Ramon Ortiz needs to assert himself as the ace of the Nationals' staff now that Livan Hernandez was traded to the Diamondbacks on Monday.

"No, I don't need a guy," Robinson said. "All I need is Ramon to do what he's doing. I don't need one guy to step up. One guy can't step up for five guys. I need a five-man rotation that will give me innings, keep us in the ballgame and give us a chance to win."

Ortiz ended up having one of his best outings of the season. He pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up two runs -- one earned -- on eight hits to even his record at 9-9. Ortiz struck out six and walked none.

"He mixed in his fastball. He didn't overuse his breaking ball. He used it in good situations. He kept them off balance," Robinson said.

The way Ortiz is pitching, it's safe to say that he has been the most effective starter, but he doesn't want to hear that he's the ace of the staff.

"I don't think like that. When Frank gives me the ball the day I pitch, it's my day," Ortiz said. "It doesn't matter what position I have right now. I think every time he gives me the ball, I'm doing my job, I'm doing the best I can," Ortiz said.

Ortiz got off to a slow start in the first inning, when Mike Jacobs singled to center to drive in Alfredo Amezaga to make it a 1-0 game.

Although the team maintained the lead through the early innings, Washington's offense was sluggish. The team left 14 runners on base and was 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

In the second inning, the Nationals had the bases loaded and two outs against left-hander Dontrelle Willis, Felipe Lopez struck out with the bases loaded.

In the seventh, Washington had the bases loaded and one out against relievers Randy Messenger and Renyel Pinto. The Nationals managed to get runners on first and third and no out against Messenger. Marlins manager Joe Girardi then took Messenger out of the game to bring in Pinto, who walked pinch-hitter Daryle Ward to load the bases. However, Pinto struck out pinch-hitter Luis Matos and Alfonso Soriano to end the inning.

"If you take advantage of the opportunities you have, it's an easier game for us. But going in, the way it was, we are fighting for our lives at the end of the ball game. It shouldn't have been. That's what those missed opportunities do," Robinson said.

The Nationals did manage to score some runs throughout the game. They took the lead in the bottom of the inning against Willis. With runners on second and third and one out, Willis walked Nick Johnson and threw a wild pitch at the same time, which allowed Soriano to score.

With runners on first and third, Austin Kearns grounded out slowly to shortstop Hanley Ramirez, but Ryan Zimmerman scored on the play to give the Nationals the one-run lead.

In the third, Zimmerman scored Washington's third run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Alex Escobar.

Zimmerman then scored the Nationals' fourth run, when Willis was unable to make a good throw to the plate for the force out.

The Marlins scored their second run of the game, when a fielding error by Lopez at shortstop allowed Miguel Olivo to score.

"It happens," Lopez said. "It's part of the game. It was a hard-hit ball."

In the bottom of the eighth, Lopez scored the final run of the game on Escobar's sacrifice fly.

"Thank goodness for Escobar tonight," Robinson said. "We got at least two runs from third base."

Said Lopez, "It was Ortiz, who kept us in the game. With men on base, we were not doing it. Escobar and Zimmerman got key hits. But we have to do better than that as a team."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.