Soriano, Zimmerman spark Nats' win

Soriano, Zimmerman spark Nats' win

NEW YORK -- As the season winds down, two of the more prominent Nationals players found there was still time to achieve a pair of respective milestones.

Alfonso Soriano became the charter member of baseball's 40-40-40 club with his 40th double, and Ryan Zimmerman surpassed the century mark with his 100th RBI, leading Washington to a 3-2 victory over the Mets on Friday.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson said the individual exploits of Soriano and Zimmerman -- along with notable players like Nick Johnson and Chad Cordero -- have shined in an otherwise trying year.

"That's kind of what the season has been wrapped around," Robinson said. "That's kind of what has kept us whole all year long and given us a lot of thrills and enjoyment, watching those guys produce and come through in tough situations.

"It's been a real joy to watch those guys."

Behind starting pitcher Pedro Astacio, Soriano scored the Nationals' first run in the third inning, then set the new milestone in the fifth, becoming the first player to compile 40 home runs, 40 stolen bases and 40 two-base hits in the same season.

The other members of the 40-40 club, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez, each hit 40 homers and stole 40 bases. Soriano reached 40 doubles with a line drive into the left-field corner off Mets starter Orlando Hernandez.

"It's a very good number, personally," Soriano said. "I'm very happy with the numbers I put up this year. I think I have been blessed by God, because not too many people can do that. I'm very happy and very proud of myself."

Batting .283, with 93 RBIs, 41 stolen bases and a franchise-record 45 home runs, Soriano's season has been astonishing.

He said that he believed his 2006 campaign has been his best year, but given certain circumstances of the season -- the Nationals' struggles, a position switch to the outfield and adjusting to the National League, notably -- he said it hasn't been an easy ride.

"I try to do the best I can to concentrate every day," Soriano said. "It's very hard, because we're in last place, we're going nowhere and it's the last 10 games. It's hard, but I try to do the best I can to finish strong. I've never been in a situation like I am now."

Finishing up his first full season in the Major Leagues, Zimmerman has exceeded many expectations, with his 100th RBI only serving as further evidence.

The production of Zimmerman's milestone RBI mimicked a familiar pattern of recent weeks. After Soriano reached base in the third inning, he stole second and moved to third on an error, then scored on Felipe Lopez's run-scoring hit to right field.

Lopez then stole second on catcher Mike DiFelice before coming around on Zimmerman's solid single through the second-base hole.

"You've got to have the opportunities to drive the runs in, but you've got to get the hits, too," Zimmerman said. "I'm pretty lucky to have Sori and now Felipe in front of me. They get on base a lot and turn singles into doubles. ... It's a pretty good situation for me to hit in."

Robinson, who had tempered expectations concerning Zimmerman, who is batting .282 with 19 homers and 42 doubles, earlier in the season, said the young third baseman has gone past what anyone might have projected in Spring Training.

"I wanted this kid to go out and play, and he's gone beyond any of our expectations, I'm sure," Robinson said. "I don't think anybody could sit down here and say they expected him to be the hitter he was this year."

The support also included Austin Kearns' 24th home run -- his eighth since joining Washington -- off Hernandez in the sixth inning, helping boost Astacio.

The veteran right-hander had not fared well on the road for Washington this season, compiling an 11.52 ERA away from RFK Stadium, but the former Met's return to New York seemed to do the trick.

Astacio, a Met in 2002 and 2003, limited his former club to two runs and nine hits over 6 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out four. The right-hander worked into the seventh inning, but surrendered a home run to pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee and left the game one batter later.

Astacio said the start was a welcome reversal from some of his previous outings, which had been heavy on earned runs and hits allowed.

"No one is going out there trying to look bad," Astacio said. "You want to go out there and win some games. You go there to compete."

Endy Chavez had an RBI single for New York off Astacio in the fifth. Hernandez allowed three runs and six hits over seven innings, walking one and striking out eight.

Cordero pitched a scoreless ninth for his 28th save, preserving the Nationals' ninth straight win in a one-run game.

"We look like a new team," Zimmerman said. "We've got a lot of new faces that are doing well. It gives us some confidence for next year to let us know that we can do this. If we can have our pitchers healthy, our lineup's pretty good. We have a pretty good team."

Bryan Hoch is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.