Notes: Soriano a fan of Phils' Howard

Notes: Soriano a fan of Phils' Howard

PHILADELPHIA -- Entering Sunday's action, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard led the National League in home runs with 43, while Nationals left fielder Alfonso Soriano ranked second with 40.

Both players admitted recently that they occasionally keep tabs of what the other is doing in home runs. Soriano started paying attention to Howard after he won the CENTURY 21 Home Run derby in July.

"I look at him because he is a very good hitter," Soriano said of Howard recently. "I'm second, so [if he hits] one, I'll try to catch him."

But for Soriano, he said it wouldn't mean much to him to win a home run title.

"If I win the home run title, a lot of people would look at me as a home run hitter," he said. "I'm too little to think about being a home run leader."

Howard said on Sunday morning that it's amazing that Soriano is close to being the fourth player of hitting 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season.

"He's having a great season," Howard said. "He is hitting close to .300 with 40 home runs and all that as a leadoff guy. That's unheard of. You don't see it that often. You don't think about a leadoff hitter that hits 40 home runs. What he does at the position is something different."

A nice outing: Lost in the Nationals' 11-2 loss to the Phillies on Saturday was the fact that right-hander Chris Schroder pitched two shutout innings and struck out five.

"I had a good fastball location," Schroder said. "I felt good. The sliders I threw were good. I got ahead quick. I was throwing first pitch strikes. I settled down a little bit. I really felt comfortable."

Schroder, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A New Orleans on Aug. 8, hasn't allowed a run in his last four innings It's unknown what Schroder's role will be in the future, since like Ryan Wagner and Travis Hughes, he is auditioning for next season.

On Sunday, Schroder was pressed into service in the bottom of the third inning against the Phillies and gave up three runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Not sure: Manager Frank Robinson is not sure if right-hander Ramon Oritz will be suspended after hitting Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand in the second inning on Saturday. Ortiz was ejected from the game soon thereafter.

Robinson said if Ortiz had hit Rowand in the head area, Ortiz certainly would have been suspended.

Not good: After throwing a complete-game shutout last week against the Braves, Pedro Astacio didn't get to the third inning on Sunday, giving up seven runs -- six earned -- gainst the Phillies.

"It was a bad game," Astacio said. "I was pitching behind the hitter -- a couple of walks. Walks in this game can kill you all the time."

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Stat of the day: The Nationals have recorded three bottom-of-the-ninth wins this season. The last one came on July 26 when Austin Kearns hit a sacrifice fly against the Giants.

Did you know? Entering Sunday's action, Felipe Lopez and Soriano rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in stolen bases in the National League. Lopez had 32 stolen bases and Soriano had 30.

Coming up: The Nationals travel to Miami to play a three-game series against the Marlins starting on Monday night. The last time these two met was in early August, with the Marlins winning two out of three at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. For the season, Florida has won eight of 15 games against Washington.

In Monday's 7:05 p.m. ET opener, left-hander Billy Traber takes the mound for Washington, while right-hander Anibal Sanchez goes to the hill for Florida.

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